After Patsy Walker (minus her costumed alter-ego) made a big splash in Jessica Jones on Netflix last month, she has also returns to Marvel Comics with her own title penned by two fan-favorite creators both of whom are new to Marvel, writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams. Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #1 doesn’t try to make a clean slate for the character; instead it embraces her long history, transforming it into a charming component of a this great new starting point.
This debut issue sets a very similar tone to both creators previous work on titles like Power Up! (Leth) and Lumberjanes (Williams). It’s fast-paced, bubbly, and packed with information. Leth wants to give readers a complete introduction to Patsy Walker, which is no easy feat considering she’s one of the oldest characters in the Marvel universe, tracing her way to classic romance comics (where she was originally created by Ruth Atkinson). Some elements, like Patsy’s new and old supporting cast, are woven into the main plot of the comic. Others spring up in tangents and asides presented in bubbles or panels filled with chibi-style characters.
Those asides play well with both Williams artistic and storytelling styles. Her cartooning is clear and smooth, rushing the story along just as quickly as any new ideas appear. Everything reads at a dash, which is just how Patsy thinks and talks. Even when set in a mundane atmosphere like a bookstore for multiple pages, Williams makes the back-and-forth of conversation and environment feel lively. Backgrounds are layered with extra jokes (including a nice tip of the hat to Sex Criminals co-creator Chip Zdarsky) and bright, bold colors from Megan Wilson.
The evocation of a playful atmosphere is key to making Leth’s script work, as the plot of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #1 is thin the moment you begin to think about it for too long. It is essentially an extended introduction of a new superpowered (but not superheroic) character, Ian. While he looks to be essential to the series to come and adds another queer voice to the Marvel universe, nothing about his story here feels very compelling. That’s the crux of this first issue in that it sets up a lot, but delivers very little of substance. Leth has lots of ideas including the brilliant concept of a temp agency for superpowered New Yorkers, but they are all promises for what is still to come. Here she relies on her style to capture readers interest and keep it long enough to see how this new business venture and Ian’s future may pan out.
The jokes and quick set up of a very large cast and lots of potential plotlines all work as well as they do largely because of Williams and Wilson’s presentation. They make the crayon-colored business presentation pop and the humorously foreboding callbacks to Walker’s teenage friends seem actually mysterious. Their delivery of each line and concept is so engaging that it’s easy to re-read Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #1, and wait for #2 to bring the same style and laughter, and the follow through on the premises established here.