Writer: Kathryn Immonen
Artist: David LaFuente
Patsy Walker, Hellcat is an entertaining piffle, an amuse-bouche that melts away leaving vague, pleasant memories. I doubt that this frothy title will have the legs its titular red-haired heroine enjoys, but this is another solid left-field effort from a confident publisher.
The strength of the title is its gentle sense of humor, and given the convoluted nature of this character, Ms. Walker sure needs a light touch. Even given the tangled Marvel Universe, Patsy stands out as a classic example of a character so impenetrable one is almost better to ignore her history and start fresh.
Long-time fans know that Patsy Walker was the headliner of her own, Archie-esque teen romance book from the 1940s until the 1960s, before being integrated into the Marvel Universe proper an almost unbelievably hamfisted manner. She got a costume (the Cat’s), became a member of the Defenders, developed psychic powers (useful for picking up boys on the beach, I suppose) and, oh, was married to the Son of Satan.
Given how ridiculous this all is, Immonen, the wife of long-time comic illustrator Stuart, deserves a medal for tackling all this idiocy. The Immonens first paired up on the character with a short series in the pages of the new Marvel Comic Presents that featured a half-dozen Patsys running about in a nod to this legacy.
That strip and this new miniseries share the same strength: Immonen approaches the source material with a giddy touch. That concealed a serious weakness that also sandbags this new title. Bluntly, Immonen’s ideas are clever, but she doesn’t have the chops yet to execute them in a satisfying manner.
In Immonen’s hands, Ms. Walker is the over-the-top naïf, a kind of Betty meets Dumb Bunny with better aim. A lesser talent would have just slid into cheesecake, but Immonen makes it clear that Patsy’s good nature and “gee-shucks” manner are a put-on that conceals a sharp mind. She’s also clever enough to use that ham to get her character into trouble; it’s pretty clear from the early going that Patsy’s charms fall flat on the folks around her.
But the plot is so thin as to be nonexistent: Patsy is trying on a pal’s dress, gets a call from Iron Man and subsequently is shipped off to Alaska as part of the “50-State Initiative” that has been running through Marvel’s books for the past two years. There, she finds weird bears and a sea monster. Half the book is spent on set-up, and LaFuente uses the space to cop from Alphonse Mucha in a series of daydream sequences that play up Patsy’s 40’s legacy.
If you don’t know — or don’t care — about Patsy’s past, you may well be wondering why she isn’t just thrown into Alaska at the start of the book, and it’s a fair complaint. Just when things are starting to gel in the book, it’s over with a rather forced cliffhanger. I got the feeling that Immonen was at cross purposes, wishing she had more time to play with the innate silliness of her charge and then grumbling that the page count had run out and it was time for some fisticuffs.
The question is: Will Immonen be able to find the right balance? Right now, the answer is no — she’s very good at making Patsy endearing, but not so good at having her actually do stuff. Hopefully that will change. Like her heroine, Immonen just needs more time and seasoning.