Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #7

hellcat7In Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #7, writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Megan Wilson wrap up the ongoing conflict between Patsy Walker and Hedy Wolfe, her former best friend who is making money off old comic books about her life. And along the way, they tell excellent Alias and She-Hulk stories paying homage to the work that Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Charles Soule, and Javier Pulido on these books while giving it a Hellcat twist. One of the nice things about a long shared universe that creators can use past relationships and narrative tricks to add layers to their story, and Leth does this especially in Patsy’s struggles with being the “star” of a romance comic as well as her terrible relationship with her mom, who tried to bargain Patsy’s life for her own on her deathbed.

This issue does get pretty serious with legal terminology flying everywhere, and Patsy being forced to relive her past too. But as in the previous six issues, Leth, Williams, and Wilson season the story with plenty of fun, bright colors, and some humorous cartooning from Williams. It is really clever how Williams incorporates gag panels into an arc of a superhero comic, such as fourth wall breaking shots of the artist herself getting Patsy to sign a book, Luke Cage reading his own comic (Power Man and Iron Fist) while Patsy and Jessica scheme, or Hedy and her evil cat Betty furiously reacting to Jessica Jones’ sarcasm in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an old Peanuts strip. These moments give a little comic relief from the darker places that Hellcat goes and show one of the advantages comics has as a medium: quick visual humor.

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Hellcat #7 also happens to be one of the best Jessica Jones stories in years even if the emotional focus is more on Patsy and to a lesser extent, Tom Hale, who reflects about living in Centerville (Patsy’s old home and the setting of the comics featuring her.) as a closeted gay man. Jessica gets to use her P.I. skills, wit, and even her superpowers to help find dirt on Hedy and help her fellow superhero, Hellcat. She plays an active role in the plot while also being a wife and mother as Luke and Dani come to the book signing. Patsy and Jessica don’t have the same bond that they do in the Jessica Jones TV show, but Leth and Williams start to forge a relationship between them as they have a contest to see who can jump, fly, or vault into Hedy’s window while swapping sarcastic banter. (Some dark colors from Megan Wilson makes these pages extra sneaky.)

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Like the first arc of Alias where Jessica protected Captain America’s secret identity, she ensures that Hedy doesn’t out Patsy to anyone who might harm her like the current court case where she is trying to get the rights back to the Patsy Walker romance comics. However, Leth takes an extra step and makes the subtext text by having a gay man, Tom Hale, talk about how he had to keep his sexuality under wraps while living in a small town, which is a relatable situation for many queer folks and also connects to Patsy wanting to give her secret identity only to her friends and confidants. And it’s a pretty powerful moment when Hellcat “transforms” back into Patsy Walker to confront Hedy about how her mom made life a literal hell for her, and that Hedy is continuing Dorothy Walker’s legacy by reaping the financial benefits. While Patsy is usually adorable smiles and winks, Brittney Williams gives her a fierce, intense expression to show she means business along with some big hand gestures.

Whereas Hellcat #5 was more of a traditional superhero brawl, Hellcat #7 is a mix of a legal drama and P.I. story that lets Kate Leth, Brittney Williams and Megan Wilson go a darker place plotwise and visually while showing the importance of friendship in Patsy’s life as Jessica Jones, Jennifer Walters, and even everyone’s favorite ginger bear Tom Hale help her finally get her life back and track so she can help the young superpowered people of New York also have better lives through her temp agency.

 

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy