Hellcat’s new comic isn’t just for fans of Patsy “Trish” Walker’s awesome appearance in Jessica Jones. It’s not even particularly for long term fans of Patsy as a character. Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! joins a rare breed in the mainstream comic world: It’s a book that’s genuinely for everyone, and a delight to read.
Spoilers ahead for Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #1, by Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, Megan Wilson, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles.
Despite the growing mainstream appeal of the superhero world, most comic book series aren’t really aiming for a particularly broad audience—but there’s a few out there, the likes of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, or Batgirl, or Ms. Marvel, that offer genuine appeal to adults, teens, and kids alike. This is tough to do, but when it works—and it really works in AKA Hellcat!—it makes for the sort of fun, breezy blast of a comic that you remember from your childhood.
There’s a sort of strange nostalgia in this comic, from Leth’s fantastically cheery writing to Williams and Wilson’s wonderful, almost candy-coated aesthetic. It combines cartoon and manga stylistic influences with a pastel color palette that gives the book a vivid, bold style that leaps off every page.
But for all the nostalgia it invokes for the lighthearted comics of the past, AKA Hellcat is, as Patsy herself calls for in the book, a fresh start. It moves her away from her long, stunningly complex backstory and gives her a new path, a new goal to strive for, and a new cast of characters to integrate with.
That goal? Living a life beyond superheroics. AKA Hellcat! Is a superhero comic that really isn’t about putting on a costume and fighting crime (although that is how Patsy meets her new best friend and room mate, the psychically-powered Ian), but about what happens in between those moments. And those bits haven’t really been going all that well for Patsy. She finds herself homeless and jobless when She-Hulk can no longer afford her services as an investigator, jolting Patsy out of her current status quo.
It’s a clever way to “reboot” the character, but even with Patsy finding herself in new situations, she is still the Patsy that Hellcat fans have loved for years, and tremendous respect is paid to her history and legacy. The sort of inspirational, almost unstoppable peppiness and positivity that defines the lighter side of Trish in Jessica Jones is still there. And the joy she takes in being a superhero, which has been a long time trait in the comics, is there too.
The series even deftly touches on Patsy’s bizarre, arcane history as a romance comic star (Patsy as a character has been around since the 1940s.) We see the return of Tom “Tubs” Hale, a character from the original Patsy comics back, as a bear-ish Brooklyn bookstore owner as a prominent supporting cast member. But it also carries on Marvel’s in-universe retcon of those old comics, as a seeming ongoing source of frustration of Patsy. It speaks to Leth’s masterful scripting that AKA Hellcat can be jam packed with callbacks and acknowledgements of Patsy’s long history, but also make them simple and easy enough to digest that any reader just bought into this first issue because they wanted a bright, fun looking comic.
And AKA Hellcat really is a ton of fun—there’s some great jokes, especially a recurring one featuring She-Hulk getting drinks spilled on her that leads to some fantastic reaction faces. And the premise really is a welcome respite from the sweeping events of Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different”. It’s a joy to read a comic where the final page “shock reveal” isn’t the return of a dead character or a sinister old villain returning, but the revelation that Patsy is going to need a retail job to kickstart her dreams of opening a super-powered temp agency.
If that makes you smile, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat. It’s a joy of a comic—and a bright spot in an area of the Marvel universe that doesn’t have nearly enough light at the moment.