After an intriguing flash forward opening page Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1 gets right down to superhero business with its titular heroine stopping a D-list supervillain, who can move objects with his mind. And quotes Wicked. And after this hilarious and epic twist where Patsy chats with the would-be armed truck thief (and Inhuman) Telekinian, befriends him, helps him use his powers for good by floating a nice girl’s Broadway tickets up from a gutter where her horrible boyfriend put them, and also gives him pointers on picking a code name. (Telekinesis + Ian equals close, but no cigar.) This is only the appetizer in writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Megan Wilson’s buffet of fun, relatable characters, comedy with a side of the old retcon. The creative team acknowledges Patsy Walker’s admittedly weird and occasionally 71 year history in comics from her beginnings as a romance comic heroine to even her time in a literal hell, but give her a fresh start with quick back and forth dialogue, eye popping colors, on-point fashion design, and characters with actual problems, like finding a freaking job as a twentysomething in 2015!
Like many excellent comics in the past several years (E.g. Captain Marvel, Batgirl), Hellcat #1 has a solid base in its character design. Williams embraces the brilliant George Perez costume design in the superhero scenes as well as the soft, lovely aesthetic of her romance comics with a modern fashion sensibility in the civilian scenes. The Hellcat costumes allows for some hilarious reaction panels like when her eyes bug out as Ian floats the Broadway tickets above her head. Leth and Williams also aren’t afraid to channel the inner melodrama that is the Marvel universe, like Patsy’s firing from her investigator job for Jennifer Walters ends in a bright, green door slam.
Hellcat #1 is also progressive without being preachy and taps into the mutant (and now Inhuman) as LGBT metaphor with the character of Ian, who is gay and visits a gay bookstore called Burly Books. (I smell bear.) The proprietor of the store is Tom, a former chubby, comic relief character from the old Patsy Walker romance comics, who ends up giving Ian a job at the store using his telekinetic abilities to move boxes. These characters aren’t tokens, but play an important role in the plot and even their own mini-arcs running parallel to Patsy’s. Tom is an important connection to Patsy’s past and built his bookstore because of the royalty money that Hedy (Patsy’s romantic rival in her old comics) cut him to use his likeness in reprints of these old romance comics. Patsy’s mom wrote these comics without her permission, and she’s been trying to move on from them for a long time. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and the nostalgia market for the old Patsy comics floods her life with some unwanted folks in both person and on online dating apps.
Ian is a part of Patsy’s future and succinctly sums up Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ thesis statement for the title in a line of dialogue over drinks, “A lot of us don’t want to fight monsters or die in space battles, we just want jobs.” Leth and Williams give Patsy the goal in Hellcat #1 the goal of creating a job agency for superhumans, who have skills through their superpowers that could be useful, but are passed up because their powers could also be a liability. Take away the eye beams, flight, and various and sundry powers, and you have kids, who just graduate college, done some retail work, and an internship, but are passed over for jobs because something like “lack of experience” or just a crowded market. And thus, Hellcat #1 has some real world relevance because its main characters Patsy and Ian care more about making rent and finding a decent job than joining the Avengers or being a part of the latest crossover. This even extends to the issue’s cliffhanger, which is Patsy finding a job in *shudders* retail, silly uniform, and all. She has big dreams about helping other superpowered folks get on their feet and find gainful employment, but first, she must make ends meet.
Hellcat #1 deals with realistic issues, like rent, employment, and unfortunately, the harassment of women by men either online or offline. But it’s the polar opposite The jokes flow free and often in Kate Leth’s script beginning with Ian quoting “Defying Gravity” from the fabulous musical Wicked in the middle of his supervillain monologue, and Ian saying that his bruised face should be put under “butt kicking” on Patsy’s resume. Megan Wilson’s colors are inviting and bright without being super jarring. She uses blue every time Patsy thinks about her past, and this can represent melancholy or her fierceness as Hellcat depending on the situation. And the interplay between Williams’ faces and Leth’s dialogue doubles fun, like the earlier mentioned scene with Patsy accidentally spilling coffee on Jennifer Walters and getting shut out of her office.
The comparison to Broad City in Marvel’s marketing material is apt as this a comic centered around friendship and relationships from old, slightly prickly ones (Patsy and Jennifer) to fresh, mentor-ish ones (Patsy and Ian) and the classic hometown pal one (Patsy and Tom). But Leth and Williams don’t back away from the weirdness and the wonder of the Marvel Universe with everything from mystical powers to female Thor and even a little Magical Girl action tucked away or jumping off the pages.
Hellcat #1 has a diverse cast of characters (Fitting for a Brooklyn set comic.), freely flowing art from Brittney Williams , and has a lot of engaging, real life situations plotted by Kate Leth for readers to latch onto. It’s about an unemployed ex-superhero/PI/subject of romance comics and her gay roommate, who just learned about his powers and might not have the greatest moral compass, hanging out and figuring out how to get their shit together. It’s definitely the most exciting debut issue of All-New, All-Different Marvel thus far.