Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trade Weight: Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol 1

2016, Marvel

Within seconds of turning* to the first page of the Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! trade, I thought I had made a huge** mistake.  Brittany L. Williams' art is just... so ... erm ... for girls.  I don't mean that disparagingly.  I don't mean in any way it's bad.  I just mean it looks more like art coming out of a Monster High early readers book or one of the Rainbow Magic fairy books (with a 7-year-old daughter, I've seen my fair share of both of those) than standard superhero fare.  It looks very much like something meant to appeal to a younger, female audience, not to a 40-year-old dad still obsessed with recapturing his youth in paper and plastic***.  And you know what, I think that's the point of Williams' art, and Kate Leth's stories.  They're decidedly not constructed to appeal to the standard 40-something, hasn't-grown-up, male demographic.  I mean the chibi Hellcat that pops up as a stylistic device for emotional emphasis makes my head throb in its non-sequitur-ness, yet another telltale sign this just wasn't meant for me.

And yet, I flipping loved this book, far more than I think I should.  My only exposure to the character was on Season 1 of Jessica Jones, and that character's not even named the same (she goes by Trish in the show), and the don't share the same career (or lack thereof, Trish in the show is a radio host, Patsy here is largely unemployed/self-employed), and in the show Trish is not a costumed vigilante...at least not yet.    Ah...crap, I completely forgot about Patsy's role as She-Hulk's best friend in the short-lived, but awesome, She-Hulk series by Charles Soule... erm, nevermind?

The comic opens with Jennifer Walters having to lay Patsy off as her P.I., since things are slow.  Patsy has dreams of starting an employment agency for people with special abilities who can't find other work, partly as a preventative measure to keep them from crime.  Leth also deals with the fact that Patsy was dead for a while and had once married Damon Hellstrom, son of Satan.  It creates this curiously deep backstory that isn't even the most interesting part of her past.  No, that falls to the fact that Patsy was once the star of an Archie-style teen romance comic named after her, created by her mother.  Her mother died and left the intellectual property in the hands of Patsy's best frienemy, Hedy, who has resurrected the comic much to Patsy's chagrin.

Patsy Walker's origins in comics date as far back as 1944, and until the 1970's she was only ever a romance comic character, so it's a delicious bit of meta-fiction, somewhat borrowing from the "It's Patsy" teen sitcom backstory for Trish on Jessica Jones.  There's a whole gaggle of weirdness to Patsy Walker, Hellcat, but it comes together in a satisfying manner.  It affects much of the tone of a teen romance/comedy comic, but with superhero flourishes, and even some not all that mature legal drama. 

What wins it over, 100%, is Patsy herself.  She's a fish out of water in her own life.  Having been dead for some time, she's missed out on a lot, and certain technologies are just beyond her grasp.  There's a dash of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in that, which only makes her more endearing, especially given Kimmy Schmidt's rage issues in Season 2 of that show.

I'm not sure Patsy Walker, Hellcat will win over the dadbod crowd in droves, but there's no reason she can't.  The book features guest shots from Dr. Strange, Howard the Duck, She-Hulk, Valkyrie, and Jessica Jones (among others), so it uses the larger Marvel U in its own ways (just like it's big sister comic Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).   I certainly need to get my daughter onto this though.  I think she'd love it, perhaps even more than I do.  I love that this exists, and that Marvel's line up of titles has become so varied in style and tone and character.  


*when it's a digital comic, is it really "turning" at that point?
** by huge, I mean incredibly minor, or nominal.  This is what we in the blogging biz call "hyperbole", sometimes melodrama.
*** eg. comics and toys

No comments: