Patsy Walker: Hellcat
(2008 - five issues, Marvel Comics)
Script: Kathryn Immonen. Art: David Lafuente.
In the bizarre, convoluted, never ending continuity of comics...Patsy Walker is still one of the odder properties. She began life as a light-hearted romance character, at a time when romance and comedy characters (ala Archie Andrews) enjoyed equal popularity with super heroes. After that genre died, she was integrated into the regular Marvel universe as a supporting character in some Beast sole adventures, then carried over into The Avengers when the Beast gravitated there, and where she became a bona fide super hero, Hellcat...um, basically, 'cause there was this costume just lying around. No, seriously, that's how it happened. Then she gravitated to The Defenders, a better home for such an odd creation as it was a quirky team book at a time when quirky teams were rare (the Doom Patrol had been cancelled years before, and wouldn't enjoy a revival for years to come). Since then lots of things have happened to her, including -- I believe -- she married Daimon Hellstoorm -- The Son of Satan -- and spent some time in hell.
She's even had a couple of solo mini-series. 2000s Hellcat and this -- Patsy Walker: Hellcat.
The premise here is that, in the aftermath of Marvel's "Civil War" mini-series, registered super heroes are basically de facto government agents. So Patsy is relocated to Alaska to act as that state's resident super hero. Once there, she gets caught up in weird mysticism, and is recruited by some shamanistic witches to track down their kidnapped daughter.
There are comics you hate -- and there are comics that, though you hated reading, you can't really hate the comics themselves. And that's kind of the case here.
'Cause I really didn't like this mini-series. But, to be fair, it really wasn't my thing.
Part of the appeal of Hellcat in her old Defenders days was that she was a loveable flake, as much in love with the idea of being a super hero as a super hero. She worked well in a team dynamic and brought a quirky humour to things, that contrasted nicely with the essentially serious dramatics of a super hero adventure.
But in this case, she's got no one to play the straight man -- she is the straight man. And this isn't a drama but essentially a comedy where even the cliffhangers are generally just jokes or turn out to be anti-climactic. And it's not even really super hero, so much as whimsical fantasy like Alice in Wonderland...if Alice wore a mask and spandex.
Actually, I think Alice made more sense.
Basically Hellcat sets off on her quest, and nothing really makes sense or follows that logically from anything. Quirky and weird things occur, with all the logical justification of a dream. It can be cute and amusing at times, but a lot of times it's just annoying, as whole scenes will trundle by -- whole issues even (there are some looonnng scenes) -- where you're struggling to make sense of what's being said, and not always succeeding. It's not clear if that's just 'cause I'm missing something...or whether it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny (at one point a character simply says: it's "Complicated! Okay? Leave me alone.")
The actual plot is exceptionally thin. I mean, honestly -- you could've squeezed it into a single issue.
I won't pretend to be an expert on Patsy Walker. My main familiarity with her is from Defenders comics from the 1970s/early 1980s. But in that context she was an appealing personality. But part of what made her funny was a feeling that, despite her patented goofy exclamations ("Cheese and crackers!") she brought a kind of quirky realism to the adventure. But there's very little grounding or realism here. I've felt this way about a lot of modern comics, where the humour and wisecracks of yesteryear, which helped add a sense of reality to the comics, have now been replaced with campy silliness that untethers the story from reality.
Lafuente's art suits the script -- for good and ill. It's bright and lively and whimsical, mixing one part manga and one part Winsor McKay's "Little Nemo". He draws some cute creatures and adorable bunny rabbits -- and even throws in some nice backgroundd gags (a scene where a rabbit is watching the antics while seated with a box of popcorn). But, as such, like the script, there's no underlining gravatus to the imagery. (Stuart Immonen -- Kathryn's husband -- does the covers).
But this is not an error, per se. Immonen and Lafuente have done pretty much what I think they intended to do. It's just not something I particularly enjoyed, or can recommend to people who like a little drama with their wisecracks, a little logic with their plotting, and a little excitement with their super heroes.
But if you're looking for one part comedy with two parts Alice in Wonderland...here it is.