Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!: Hooked on a Feline
I’ve been reading comics a long time, so sometimes I feel like I’ve met my lifetime quota for superhero tales. Then a fresh, modern approach comes along that makes me appreciate even more the talent involved in telling good comic stories.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!: Hooked on a Feline reprints the first six issues of the series by Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, and Megan Wilson. (Issue #6 had art by Natasha Allegri instead of Williams and Wilson, which makes everyone look younger and more manga-y. It’s typical of corporate comics to change artists, but the style used here is friendlier than the usual.)
One of my biggest complaints about the superhero genre is how timebound most of them are. Although people are working in 2016, they’re putting out books that aim to look like comics from 1990 or 1980 or even 1960. They’re mimicking whatever they consider the classics (usually whatever they were reading when they were about 10) instead of using the character type and formula to speak to today’s issues and concerns.
Hellcat doesn’t do that. We open with Patsy Walker pitching a new business. Like so many young adults today, she’s had trouble getting a job (complicated by her need to be able to run off and superhero) so she’s starting her own company called “Super Temp”, for “heroes and other cool friends what are in need of work.” This instantly made me like her. She’s working hard to make needed changes, and her story is clearly set in today’s challenging economy. These are, in short, adventures that speak to the current reader, not someone seeking a nostalgia hit.
Yet her history isn’t ignored. The various ways writers warped her character in the past to keep the brand active are part of her backstory: the romance comics, the heroing, the bad boyfriends. Today’s culture is one where everything is available to us and thus anything might be relevant. Her history happened, but she’s looking forward from it. This attitude is refreshing.
As this volume opens, she sets out to stop a robber, but by the end of the chapter, she’s found him a better way to use his powers, moved in to share his apartment, and gotten laid off. None of this proceeds like a typical superhero comic, but yet her powers and situation (and his) are firmly needed. This is a superhero story about more than punching things to solve problems. It’s about life in a world with superheroes, which is so much more interesting to the non-adolescent reader. As her new roommate puts it, “a lot of us [folks with abilities] don’t want to fight monsters or die in space battles, we just want jobs.”
Thus, her agency. But first, the oh-so-common retail job. There’s plenty of adventure in these stories, as crazy things happen, but there’s also a lot of humor and character connection. She fights an unethical landlord and an evil witch (who manipulates her minions by claiming she can fix their credit scores and student loans), all while trying to manage her likeness and stories being publicized without her consent (another very current topic, given how some people abuse the internet). And she’s got cool friends, including She-Hulk, Howard the Duck, Doctor Strange, and Valkyrie.
My biggest complaint about Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!: Hooked on a Feline is that it doesn’t finish addressing the underlying plotline that runs through the background, about the likeness issue. But that just means a great excuse to read the next collection, Don’t Stop Me-Ow.