Like a cinnamon sugar pretzel for Auntie Ann’s, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17 is a sweet treat of a comic book and a hell of a bit of icing on the cupcake that was Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and (for the second half of the series) Rachelle Rosenberg’s run on the title. Patsy has finally come into some money thanks to getting back to the book rights to the romance novels and has decided to treat her friends to a nice shopping spree. (Color me jealous.) Cue a bevy of montages, food court scenes, and a celebration of friendship, queerness, and even a touch of fandom at the end.
I really like that Leth and Williams focused on the core cast of Patsy, Jubilee, Ian Soo, and Tom Hale in Hellcat #17. Before the shopping action even starts, we get some playful banter between Patsy and Ian, and it’s hard to believe that they were hero and villain sixteen issues ago until bonding over musicals. The bonds and interactions between characters have been my favorite part of Hellcat so far, and Leth indulges this by going full slice of life in the series finale. Williams counters with some wonderful (and wearable) fashion and adorable set dressing like Patsy’s cat themed cover set and slippers on the first page with a touch of Brooklyn sunlight from Rosenberg to show this is a perfect day. While also being a celebration of fun and friendship, Hellcat #17 also embraces body positivity with the diverse body types of its main cast, and an any outfit can look cool/cute attitude. (Someone needs to show me where Ian got his.)
Hellcat is still a superhero comic, and there is a “villain”, but Leth and Williams have a couple twists up their sleeves as the “Somnambulisters” transform from Z-list villains to vampires and finally big fans of Hellcat and queer teens. Williams uses choppy panels with simple backgrounds, puffs of smoke, and punching when it seems like Hellcat is fighting some of Jubilee’s vampire frenemies. However, she opens it up when it’s revealed that Stevie and Danica are Patsy’s biggest fans, and that fact ends up being facepalm-worthy thanks to dialogue from their very friendly villainous dialogue. (Also, one of the pair sits out during the brawl to take pictures like the other is visiting Patsy’s booth at a convention.) Speaking of dialogue, Kate Leth writes fast-paced, melodramatic teen dialogue and can cut to the core of the subtext behind the banter, which is that Stevie and Danica love each other. It’s a super cute touch to Marvel’s most queer-friendly book that featured a gay bookstore as a hangout/place to meet attractive gingers, like Tom Hale.
In its first issue, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat set out to be a comic book about super-powered individuals who just wanted to make ends meet, have a good, and not fight costumed villains or have run-ins with the authorities. Sure, there were fights against the Black Cat and journeys to hell along the way, but Hellcat #17 recaptures the spirit of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ original thesis for the series. Patsy doesn’t knock out the Somnabulisisters, but instead listens to them and finds out they have a passionate for Hellcat and each other. She doesn’t send them to jail, but helps them return their costumes to “Goth Topic” and even recommends they visit Tom’s LGBTQ bookstore to help them with their feelings for each other. This is just like Patsy helping Ian find work moving books at Tom’s store in Hellcat #1 instead of throwing him in jail for badly attempting to steal an armored car as Telekinian.
Even though it has quirky jokes and fierce style thanks to the dialogue of Kate Leth, the facial expressions and costume design of Brittney Williams, and a palette that uses just the right amount of pink from Rachelle Rosenberg, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat is a comic all about community building through organic friendships. It’s great to see characters go from awkward half-strangers or acquaintances from days past, like Tom who was in the Patsy Walker romance comic many moons ago, to friends in arms and finally, in shopping. That’s why it’s fitting that Hellcat #17 doesn’t end in a cliffhanger or final battle, but an overhead shot of friends spending time together.
P.S. Marvel editorial and future creators better not forget about Ian Soo, who will always be my bi bae and had a great arc throughout the series, and his backstory even tied into some of the villain fights.
P.P.S. This comic pair wells with “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
In Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #16, writer Kate Leth expertly weaves together a tapestry of plot threads and connects Patsy’s “pandimensional stress flu” to her general feelings of inadequacy about balancing superheroing and a temp agency plus her strained relationship with arch-frenemy Hedy Clarke. She, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist extraordinaire Rachelle Rosenberg use reality warping illnesses, hell dimensions, and magic in general as a metaphor for negative feelings and interpersonal tension. And along the way, Williams continues to make Hellcat one of the cutest comic book existence by even making a demon named Belial hella adorable. (He’s so cute that he made Itty Bitty Hellboy jealous.)
Hellcat #16 is all about Patsy Walker the human being, how she’s changed over the past 16 issues, and who she wants to be. Is she a superhero, is she a queer and superhuman friendly entrepreneur and job creator, or is she just a sad, freaked out woman? Leth and Williams give Patsy all these qualities as she keeps switching up reality and even sends everyone to hell for a spell. The supporting characters, like Jubilee and her landlady Sharon King, are mostly played for comic relief with Jubilee changing form yet again to a Bela Lugosi-style vampire, and Sharon remaining focused on getting her building back in the midst of demons and mean girls. Their comedy keeps Hellcat #16 from getting overly dramatic and makes sure the book never loses its sense of fun.
Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors act as kind of tether in a comic that is constantly switching mood and locale, much like its heroine. She uses a pink background interchanged with a devil red in the foreground to show Hedy’s unlikely romance with Belial, who she calls Benny because sweater rocking, dog petting demons deserve pet names. Throughout Hellcat #16, she uses a light orange to show Hedy’s trip to Hell, which is much smoother than Patsy’s and ends with her getting a boyfriend. Orange is less intense than the reds that Rosenberg predominantly uses for Hell and makes it easier to relax and laugh off the non-stop drama of Daimon Hellstrom, who banishes people to Hell first and then asks questions.
Daimon is a hilarious character, and it’s nice that Leth and Williams brought him back before the end of the series complete with overwrought dialogue and pentagram. A shared laugh over his ridiculousness is the first time that Hedy and Patsy haven’t been antagonistic towards each other and is the first small step in repairing their relationship that ends with an apology, hugs, and ramen. Holding grudges sucks, but revenge is also a powerful feeling, and sometimes it takes the pissy Son of Satan to drive that point home.
Towards the end of Hellcat #16, Kate Leth and Brittney Williams tag team with powerful dialogue and timely panel angles to create an overflow of emotion as Patsy talks out her feelings to Belial, who is taking on the form of her best friend, Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk. Williams does an extreme close-up of Patsy’s face and eyes as she admits that Jen’s injury shook her up. Patsy’s misses Jen’s ability to be a rock in the midst of dealing with all the stressful things in her life. But Belial, who is honestly the nicest demon in existence, switches to Jen as Williams’ art fades away, and Patsy cries in her arm and finds a bit of catharsis. It’s super tender and a great reminder of how important their relationship is. And even if Hellcat is ending, the bond or lack of one between Patsy and Jennifer is an important part of Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon’s Hulk series.
In Hellcat #16, Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that feelings are tougher to come to terms with than supervillains or hellions. They do this while throwing together the previous Hell dimension storyline and the current short flu arc to create one tasty concoction of a showdown between Patsy and Hedy. Also, Williams continues to draw Jubilee as the cutest X-Man turned vampire ever.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
On the outside, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #15 seems like a special catch-all holiday special issue with Patsy, the temps, Jubilee, and special guests like her landlady Sharon King and Ms. America enjoying some mid-February cheer after some stressful times with Civil War II, Hedy, and most recently, Black Cat. But then writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg make a comic take a turn for the reality warping thanks to the common With trips to Hell and magical bags, Hellcat has always been pretty trippy to go with its slice of life meets quirky street level superheroics, but it’s mostly been contained into special locales. But the weird visuals have arrived fully formed at Patsy’s temp agency building, and Williams gets to draw all matters of mostly adorable and occasionally creepy images intruding on the “real world”.
In addition to featuring a fierce, sentient tiger plush named Mr. Sniffles, chibi Jubilee, and a Canadian flag rocking Ms. America, Leth uses Patsy’s sickness and possible new powers to zero in on how she is changing. She has spent so much of Hellcat fighting and dealing with drama that as soon as it’s party time, she sneezes out the personification of her stress and negative feelings. Instead of doing yet another team up with friends and save the day plot, Leth has Patsy fight her own battles and use her words and agile kicks to overcome her fears. Mr. Sniffles is pretty much Patsy’s subconscious so she uses her knowledge of herself and what’s she really freaked out about (US politics in 2017.) instead of her past or insecurity. It’s also kind of nice to have a superhero uncertain about how the United States is going to turn out under Trump, and this feeling stems from Patsy’s deep friendships with women, queer people, and people of color in both her home, work, and superhero circles.
And in focusing on Patsy’s “secondary mutation”, or whatever the Disney/Inhuman friendly phrase in this day, Leth and Williams don’t neglect her supporting cast. Ian and Tom Hale are hopefully off smooching somewhere, but Sharon King, Ms. America, Bailey aka Attache, and Jubilee each get a moment of badassery, insight, or cuteness. Sharon is really the only character with both feet firmly in the real world of rent and bills, and her resignation-filled dialogue bits are some of Hellcat #15’s funniest scenes. She gets to punch something too. True to her reputation, Ms. America does a lot of punching in this comic and also gets an adorable pajama set from Williams and Rosenberg. And Jubilee seems to be the one constantly getting transformed in different going from tiny to giant in turn of a few pages and is also very understanding about the changes in Patsy’s life and power set.
Brittney Williams’ artwork on Hellcat has occasionally featured chibis, but she gets to all out with them thanks to Patsy’s new sneezing abilities. Chibi Jubilee puts Skottie Young’s baby covers and Marvel Tsums Tsums to shame especially when she starts petting Mr. Sniffles. But Williams can tap into horror too when Patsy sneezes out a giant wasp that leads to a lot of sad reaction faces from her friends. Rosenberg takes a break from her soft, happy palette and uses an angry pink background for the wasp attack. If you look at the background of every panel, you can tell Patsy’s emotional state instantly thanks to her colors, which furthers Hellcat #15’s goal of being an intense exploration into her character and a general turning point.
Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg throw out a bunch of crazy ideas in Hellcat #15, including connecting the sniffles and Scarlet Witch-lite reality warping powers, and most of them stick thanks to the fact that the weirdness stems from Patsy’s own issues. Also, Jubilee shapeshifting into a cloud will never not be hilarious.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #14 is a flash grenade fast end to the Black Cat story arc as writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney Williams, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg show the final battle between Hellcat and her Hellkittens and Black Cat’s girl (and gay ginger) gang. Ian Soo and Jubilee play major roles in the final action sequence while Leth shows that Ian is better being himself around his new boyfriend Tom than walking on eggshells around his ex, Zoe.
Teaming up with an enemy is an old-as-the-hills Marvel superhero trope with heavy hitters, like Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Rogue starting out as a bad guys. Except Leth and Williams add a personal touch with Zoe trying to seduce Ian to join her in his bedroom, and there are the awkward feeling of being exes combined with the fact that she didn’t care about her bisexuality. Zoe had romantic feelings for Ian, but she minimized his bisexuality and the fact he didn’t want to dress in a traditionally masculine way, which made him feel low. Even though they are fighting together against Black Cat, Leth is clear to say that they aren’t friends. Williams also cuts the “ex-reunion” close with a panel of raised hand while Rosenberg replaces the cool night colors with the pink and yellow pastels of a Jubilee morning donut run.
The mind control mechanics starts to wear a little then in Hellcat #14, but Williams makes up for it with some strong aesthetic choices, like everyone in Black Cat’s gang wearing matching pink and black cat jackets. This includes Tom Hale, whose dialogue while under mind control is hilarious and pathetic. Everyone calls Black Cat, “Ms. Cat” for some reason, and there is no way for her to have any kind of real relationships because they are all based on her scratching them with magic claws. She may get to do snow angels in bank vaults, but Felicia ends up alone in the end. Williams’ art is super funny when she shows Black Cat enjoying her powers between muttering about Spider-Man, who she still kind of has a crush on.
Leth makes Ian Soo and Jubilee integral parts of the plot in Hellcat #14. With the arc wrapping up, Jubilee’s vampire abilities, which seemed to be just played for laughs in previous issues, come in handy in the final fight. (You can’t scratch incorporeal clouds.) Ian’s telekinetic abilities have also come a long way since he was failing at robbing armored trucks back in Hellcat #1 and instead blasts with large swathes of pink from Rosenberg taking out Black Cat’s henchpeople. Jubilee and Ian are a pair of badasses and also happen to be great allies and friends to Patsy. Not even a girl gang can keep them down.
Although the plot was dependent on mind control, Hellcat #14 is a strong end to the comic’s third arc as Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg give Hellcat a personal connection to Black Cat’s gang through Ian and his ex and add plenty of physical comedy, smooching, and fierceness to see this story to the finish line.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Some amazing comics came out in 2016 from both the Big Two and the indie ranks. This was the year that I had a lot of fun reading the books that came out in the “margins” of Marvel and DC that didn’t feature their top characters, but had idiosyncratic, top notch visuals, or just a good sense of humor. Black Mask continues to be my go-to for hard hitting indie work, and the whole BOOM! Box imprint continues to be as fun as ever.
Without further ado, these are my personal favorite comics of 2016, the ones that stimulated and entertained me the most in this difficult year.
10. Kim and Kim #1-4 (Black Mask)
Writer: Mags Visaggio Artist: Eva Cabrera Colorist: Claudia Aguirre
Kim and Kim was a super fun sci-fi miniseries with some wild and wacky worldbuilding, rollicking action scenes, and lots of hilarious interactions between the two leads, Kim Q and Kim D. Writer Mags Visaggio put their friendship front and center giving the comic a strong emotional through-line between bounty hunter shenanigans. Also, Eva Cabrera excels at drawing attractive humans as well as strange aliens, and I enjoyed Claudia Aguirre’s pastel-filled color palette. It was also nice to have a story starring two queer women not end in senseless death.
9. Jonesy #1-8 (BOOM! Studios)
Writer: Sam Humphries Artist: Caitlin Rose Boyle Colorists: Mickey Quinn, Brittany Peer
Every year, the BOOM! Box imprint seems to churn out a new title that captures my heart. Jonesyis a fire cracker of a comic starring a teenage girl, who can make anyone fall in love with anything. Unfortunately, that power doesn’t work on her personally, and it gets her into a lot of trouble. Sam Humphries’ writing has as little chill as his protagonist, and Caitlin Rose-Boyle’s art evokes the zines that Jonesy loves to make about her favorite pop star, Stuff. The hyper-stylized plots and faces that Jonesy pulls kept me laughing while Jonesy’s struggles with finding someone to love her and her strained relationship with her mom in the second arc gave me the feels. Her and her friends’ unabashed passion for life is kind of inspiring too.
8. Ultimates #3-12, Ultimates 2 #1-2 (Marvel)
Writer: Al Ewing Artists: Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward, Djibril Morrisette-Phan, Travel Foreman Colorist: Dan Brown
Ultimatesand Ultimates 2were the gold standard for team superhero book at both Marvel and DC, and not even Civil War II could stop this title’s momentum. The Al Ewing-penned comic was more of a science fiction saga that happened to star a diverse cast of superheroes than a straight up team book as they tried to find productive solutions to problems like Galactus and the Anti-Man instead of just punching things. And like all good team books, there’s some great interpersonal tension like when Black Panther puts Wakanda before the team, Ms. America defies Captain Marvel, and Spectrum and Blue Marvel start smooching. Ultimates also has some wonderful tapestry-style double page spreads from artists Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward, and Travel Foreman that match its multiversal scope. It’s an entertaining and esoteric comic.
7. Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1-2 (DC) Writer: Sarah Vaughn Artist: Lan Medina Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
In 2016, DC really stretched its wings genre-wise with the Young Animal imprint and comics, like a satirical take on the Flintstones. But, the best of this quirky bunch was a Gothic romance take on Deadman from Fresh Romance‘s Sarah Vaughn, Fables‘ Lan Medina, and atmospheric colorist Jose Villarrubia. The main character, Berenice, can see ghosts, including Deadman, who are trapped in a haunted British mansion. There are secret passageways, mysterious backstories, and an epic, bisexual love triangle, but mostly, Deadman is a meditation on mortality and relationships, both platonic and romantic with some jaw-dropping scenery from Medina and Villarrubia.
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcatis a comic that acknowledges how annoying getting your life together can be for twenty-somethings, who live in the city. Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, and Rachelle Rosenberg also throw injourneys to Hell, guest appearances from Jessica Jones and Jubilee, telekinetic bisexuals quoting Hamilton, and nods to the old Patsy Walker romance comics to a quite relatable comic. Brittney Williams’ Magical Girl and Chibi-inspired art is great for comedy purposes, but she and Leth also had some emotional payoffs throughout Hellcat thanks to the relationships developed between Patsy, Ian Soo, and She-Hulk, especially when she reacts to She-Hulk’s injury in Civil War II. Hellcat is fierce, high energy comic that is the best of both romance and superhero comics with the occasional trippy scene shift from Williams, Wilson, and Rosenberg.
5. Mockingbird #1-8 (Marvel) Writer: Chelsea Cain Artist: Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, Ibrahim Moustafa Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Mockingbird was experimental, unabashedly feminist, pretty sexy, and just happened to star a former West Coast Avenger and be published by Marvel Comics. Thriller novelist Chelsea Cain plotted a pair of mysteries, involving cosplay cruises, doctor waiting rooms, corgis, and Marvel Universe deep cuts that were engaging thanks to detail filled art from Kate Niemczyk and inker Sean Parsons. Loaded with background gags and subtle foreshadowing for future issues, Mockingbird certainly has “replay” value as a comic and is triumphant, messy, and funny just like its lead character, Bobbi Morse and was a coming out party for Marvel’s next great colorist, Rachelle Rosenberg.
4. Love is Love (IDW) Writers: Various Artists: Various
I just reviewed this comics anthology a few days ago, but Love is Love is the 2016 comic that affected me personally the most as it showed the effects of The Pulse shooting on the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways. I latched onto stories about the vibrancy of the queer community in Orlando, the sanctuary effect of gay clubs that provided some of the anthology’s best visuals from Jesus Merino, Alejandra Gutierrez, and Michael Oeming, and the use of superheroes like Batman, Midnighter, and Supergirl as simple analogues of hope in the middle of heartbreak. Love is Love saddened me, but it also inspired me to continue to uplift my LGBTQ siblings as the racist, sexist, homophobes Trump and Pence take the office of president and vice president. It was also cool to see so many talented creators using their gifts to help raise money for Equality Florida.
3. The Wicked + the Divine #18-24, #1831(Image) Writer: Kieron Gillen Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Stephanie Hans, Kevin Wada Colorist: Matthew Wilson
In WicDiv‘s third year, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson went a little blockbuster with big battles, splash pages, and an unexpected character death. But, the comic is still about the journey of Laura (Now Persephone.) from fan to artist, and how it has changed her life and relationships. And, in time honored tradition, WicDiv wasn’t afraid to get experimental with an issue featuring a Pantheon of Romantic poets and writers, like Mary Shelley and Lord Byron with lavish guest art from Journey into Mystery‘s Stephanie Hans, or the magazine issue with professional journalists interviewing Kieron Gillen roleplaying as Fantheon members with beautiful spot illustrations from Kevin Wada. As WicDiv enters its “Imperial Phase”, McKelvie and Wilson’s art is both opulent and disarming while Kieron Gillen has started to expose the personalities behind the explosions and drama of “Rising Action”.
2. Giant Days #10-21, Holiday Special #1 (BOOM!) Writer: John Allison Artists: Max Sarin, Liz Fleming Colorist: Whitney Cogar
Giant Days is funny, true, shows the value of a good inker in Liz Fleming to nail a face or gesture, and reminds me of a weekend I spent in its setting of Sheffield over two years ago. John Allison and Max Sarin have developed the personalities and mannerisms of the three leads: Susan, Esther, and Daisy that any situation that they’re plugged into from music festivals to housing selections and even cheating rings is pure entertainment. Allison, Sarin, and the bright colors of Whitney Cogar nail the ups and downs of college life with a touch of the surreal, and the series continues to be more compelling as we get to know Susan, Esther, and Daisy better as people.
1. Midnighter #8-12, Midnighter and Apollo #1-3 (DC) Writer: Steve Orlando Artists: David Messina, Gaetano Carlucci, ACO, Hugo Petrus, Fernando Blanco Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Steve Orlando’s run on Midnighter and Midnighter and Apollo has the most bone breaking action, the coolest panel layouts from David Messina, ACO, and Fernando Blanco and yes, the hottest kisses and other sexy stuff as Midnighter and Apollo are back in a relationship. Orlando shows his passion for the DC and Wildstorm universes by bringing in obscure or neglected characters, like Extrano, and making them instantly compelling or frightening in the case of Henry Bendix. Watching Midnighter skillfully take down opponents from the Suicide Squad to subway pirates or demons is an adrenaline rush, and Orlando tempers these action scenes with plenty of romance and personal moments. Midnighter and Midnighter and Apollo aren’t just the best superhero comics of 2016, but the best ones period. Come for the one-liners and shattered limbs and stay for the self-sacrificing love.
Plot-wise, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #13 is a middle of the road issue in the series as Patsy, Jubilee, and Ian are trapped in their friend, Bailey’s magical bag while Black Cat and her girl gang try to get a list from Hellcat’s temp agency so they can be muscle for her. Most of the issue happens in the bag, and this lets Brittney Williams and Rachelle Rosenberg play with panel layouts and color schemes. The lack of blood in the bag also gives Kate Leth a chance to show Jubilee actually struggle with her vampirism. It’s mostly played for laughs, like a hilarious panel of Ian comparing chibi-Hellcat and Jubilee to Louis and Lestat after Jubilee tries to feed on Patsy’s cut.
Mind control is an overused trope in superhero comics, and the entire premise of Hellcat #13 rests upon it as Bailey and even the lovely Tom Hale join Black Cat’s team in the issue. The arc really could have ended this issue with a battle between Team Hellcat and the Black Cats, but instead Leth has the good guys take some lumps, including completely getting their asses kicked in the first couple ages. Williams’ fierceness serves this fight well as Ian’s ex Zoe goes from being a general annoyance to throwing knives at people. Rosenberg uses plenty of reds and black when things take a turn for a violent like when Black Cat slashes the backs of some of her new henchfolks. There is definitely something a little off about Felicia, and Hellcat mentions this in dialogue as she’s gone from a sympathetic, flirtatious cat burglar and anti-hero to a stone cold villain.
Leth, Williams, and Rosenberg don’t go the reality bending route with Bailey’s special bag in Hellcat #13 like they did with Hell in the last arc, but instead just make it a huge purse full of random junk with a constantly changing color scheme. The enclosed space makes Team Hellcat feel powerless and not like themselves, especially when Jubilee starts vamping out. It’s a piece of plot negative space as Black Cat is free to wreak havoc on everything that Patsy has built in the real world, and poor Tom Hale gets caught in the crossfire. For the most part, the scenes in the bag feel like a waiting room for the next showdown between Hellcat and Black Cat, but the humor from Leth and Williams keeps it from getting too boring, like the various shapes Jubilee shifts to in her cloud form.
Hellcat #13 is a passable issue in a fantastic series as Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg increase Black Cat’s nefariousness levels by having either completely wipe the floor with Hellcat as well as use violence and mind control to get her way. Williams continues to show off her art chops, which runs the gamut from fierce to silly in this comic. Plus the Black Cats continue to have the most fashionable attire despite being evil.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
A new arc kicks off in Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #11 as Black Cat positions herself as a dark reflection of Hellcat’s temp agency by recruiting twenty somethings from Brooklyn as thieves and petty criminals. In the opening sequence introducing the “Black Cats”, writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams channel a more hipster version of Beyonce’s Lemonade (Albeit with a darker color palette from Rachelle Rosenberg.) with smashing, graffiti, and some nimble acrobatics. It’s nice to see what seemed like an annoying ex-boyfriend get his due, but Zoe, Ari, Jin, and Lina’s actions get shadier as Black Cat sends them on a mission against Hellcat and her temp agency.
Leth makes the Black Cats a good antagonist for Hellcat by connecting them personally to Patsy, her friends, and the world that Leth and Williams have constructed for the past eleven issues. Zoe used to be roommates with Hellcat’s best friend Ian and possibly his girlfriend from her unbearably cheesy dialogue featuring the word “macking” unironically. Ian has already been going through a hard time because he wants to stay away from the insane world of superheroes, but keeps getting drawn into them so the return of Zoe only exacerbates things for him. Plus he has been playing the completely depressing second disk of Hamilton non-stop. Even though they involve superpowers, girl gangs, and hell dimensions, Ian has the real fear that the good things in his life will end, which is the scariest feeling. He is also one of the few characters in a superhero comic, who doesn’t want to be a superhero even though he gets kind of a mini “Dark Phoenix” moment towards the end of the issue.
When she isn’t drawing acrobatic smash and grabs or the more legal sparring sessions between Jubilee, Hellcat, and the magic bag wielding temp worker Bailey, Brittney Williams excels at developing the friendship and bond between Ian and Patsy. She dials down the usual humorous hyperactivity in her art for these pages showing little moves like a surprise hug or a winking Hamilton joke to rebuild their friendship, which has been struggling a little bit since Patsy has been egging Ian on to be a superhero and not just a bookstore worker. But, sometimes it’s just better to support our friends instead of trying to direct their life’s path. Leth and Williams don’t use superhero or romance fiction cliches, like love triangles or mind control, to create tension in Ian and Patsy’s friendship, but let the arguments and make-ups flow organically.
Hellcat #11 brings a new level of chaos to the series as Black Cat and her girl gang disrupt Patsy Walker’s temp agency for seemingly no reason except to mess with her. However, the previous relationship between Zoe and Ian as well as the fact that Zoe was evicted by Patsy’s landlord adds some nice connective tissue to the earlier issues while still injecting some fresh energy into the comic. Also, as seen in the final page, Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ Black Cat has kind of a mean streak and isn’t just the flirtatious anti-hero that occasionally smooches Spider-Man. Rad jackets aside, she isn’t someone you would want to hang out with unlike Ian Soo despite his high levels of melancholy in this issue.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Verdict: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Patsy literally goes to hell in Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #10 as she confronts the spectres of her past in an issue featuring reality shattering art and colors from Brittney Williams and Megan Wilson and heartfelt, yet continuity driven writing from Kate Leth. Most of the comic is set in the hell dimension that Patsy’s ex-boyfriend Daimon Hellstrom (Aka Son of Satan) has sent to her, but Leth and Williams don’t neglect her friends along the way as they fight to rescue her. There is also time for mirth and romance, especially when it comes to a couple adorable supporting characters. (Yes, Ian and Tom Hale finally kiss in this issue.)
Patsy might end up squaring up against a bright red demon (With the Hebrew Bible deep cut name of Belial.) by the end of Hellcat #10, but the two problems she battles against are ones that many young people struggle with. They are not making the best choices in who we get romantically involved with and not living up to our “potential”. Belial taunts Patsy for marrying Mad Dog (then Buzz Baxter) and Daimon Hellstrom, but along the way, she realizes that these past choices don’t define her present, and Leth and Williams use these hell dimension scenes to help Patsy work through some of her issues. The scenes featuring She-Hulk are the most emotional as Williams cuts from a happy costume wearing Jen to a cold, comatose body as Patsy isn’t in control of her reality. But she gains more and more control as the comic progresses as she owns her past mistakes and takes the fight to real world and her friends.
Hellcat #10 has some of Brittney Williams and Megan Wilson’s most inventive visuals as her “hell” doesn’t look like the cover of a metal album or a Gustav Dore woodcut, but a classic Patsy Walker romance comic from 1950s with a burnt newsprint background. These crosshatchings from Williams and plenty of red from Wilson keeps the plot on its toes as Patsy must get out of hell on her own. And Williams really nails the sad eyes and forlorn looks of classic romance comics to make these scenes feel “real” for Patsy. Along the way, Kate Leth pokes fun at the cheesy dialogue of these old comics, and how they absolutely failed at depicting real teenage problems or struggles. (And everyone had perfect skin.)
Patsy’s mom exploited her high school struggles for her stories, but Patsy has decided to move on, and Williams shows this through a panel shattering punch as the fight goes from hell to the real world. And it’s all about the power of friendship as each member of Patsy’s friend/ex-boyfriend group gets a decent lick on Belial. Williams’ cartoonish style complements the fierceness of Jubilee as she is determined to get her new boss out of hell even if she has to turn Daimon Hellstrom into a vampire along the way. Ian also gets a big moment using his telekinesis on Belial showing that his confidence in his personal life (Kissing Tom.) has extended to his superpowers too.
Hellcat #10 balances inner conflict with action and comedy as Daimon Hellstrom and Mad Dog still fighting over Patsy is the height of farce. Kate Leth also subverts the “heroes fighting each other just to fight” (See Civil War II.) trope and has Jubilee explain to Daimon and Mad Dog why Hedy Clarke is manipulating them in a single, logical page. Add the ever-shifting backgrounds and color palettes from Brittney Williams and Megan Wilson, and Hellcat #10 is a milestone issue in Patsy Walker’s journey to cast off the shackles of her past and help the young superhumans of New York.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #9 reaches new heights of fun, happiness, and queerness in an issue that features Jubilee being the best assistant ever and rocking the cappucinos, Tom Hale singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” at karaoke, and a couple of bad boys from Patsy’s past showing up again. Writer Kate Leth delivers a script full of puns, heartful character moments, and just a touch of sadness as Patsy is still coping with her BFF, She-Hulk, being in a coma thanks to Civil War II. Artist Brittney Williams gets to show off her flare for action as Jubilee and Patsy get to team up against her ex-husbands, Mad Dog and Daimon Hellstrom. She can do misty eyed romance and enthusiastic friendship as well, and her fun, fierce, and cartoonish art style solidifies her as one of Marvel’s best current pencilers. And colorist Megan Wilson gets to add hellfire red to her usual pink, blue, and yellow palette, especially as Daimon ends up being too hot to handle.
She doesn’t get much panel time in Hellcat #9, but Leth, Williams, and Wilson elevate Hedy Clarke to arch-nemesis in the space of a single page. Most of the time, Hellcat is a slice of life sitcom, a quirky superhero adventure, or a Saturday morning cartoon, but the opening page of this issue is pure film noir. There’s a close-up on a martini glass and a cold blue backdrop from Wilson. Williams gives Daimon Hellstrom a classy suit, and Hedy Clarke, a red and black dress that pairs well with her stone-faced stare Hedy gives him when she lies about Patsy. And Hedy’s evil plan is pretty damn ingenious as she feeds on Daimon and Mad Dog’s negative feelings toward Patsy and lets them cut loose when she isn’t really in superhero mode. Plus Daimon Hellstrom is quite the powerhouse, and Leth and Williams show that as he ends a fight with one wave of his staff and a creepy pentagram.
Luckily, Hellcat #9 isn’t all darkness and evil. There are puns too. Most of the issue (except for the end of comic fight) is concerned with Patsy trying to make ends meet at her temp agency as she must balance paying rent on her building with paying her employees. Combined with her feeling down about She-Hulk’s injury, Patsy is running out of steam. Enter Jubilee, who is a happy ray of vampiric sunshine into the comic’s supporting cast. The spare roomwhere she holds court is super adorable with its mix of typical office trappings, like an espresso machine and mini fridge, and baby stuff forShogo Lee, like a Wolverine plush, toy dinosaurs, and way too many sets of alphabet letters. Williams’ skill at background jokes comes in handy in this space, especially when Jubilee’s Magneto mug is concerned. “Magneto was old” could sort of be a thesis statement for Hellcat as its characters are more concerned with helping out their friends and making ends meet than grand ideologies.
And speaking of adorableness, the karaoke bar sequence is Hellcat #9 at its most queer friendly as Tom Hale and everyone’s favorite bisexual Inhuman Ian Soo aren’t victims, but joyfully singing, drinking, and maybe even falling in love. Tom’s choice of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is kind of perfect, and the play of pink and blue from Megan Wilson creates a warm, tingly romantic feeling. (Full disclosure: I had a boyfriend, who had that as his go-to karaoke song too.) Williams also uses glances, little bits of hearts, and hilarious reaction shots from other characters to slowly craft the romance. Also, Leth writes Jubilee as the perfect wing woman with her slick one-liners about Tom not just being Ian’s boss. They should just kiss already, but this is a superhero comic and the smooching is put on hold for fighting. For now, at least.
Hellcat #9 is a flat out fun read as Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Megan Wilson put Hellcat and her friends through the wringer while also letting them live a little and enjoy life. There’s action, comedy, romance, plenty of cuteness, and a cliffhanger that is like something out of Stranger Things.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Megan Wilson Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #8 works as both a Civil War II tie-in while also exploring Patsy Walker’s relationship with She-Hulk and slightly shifting her status quo as she gets a new office, new assistant, but still has support from her friends. There’s not much in the way of plot, but writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams go for maximum emotion and show how much Jennifer Walters’ friendship has inspired and meant to Patsy, who doesn’t care about the wars between heroes and crossover events, but just wants to get her temp agency off the ground.
Hellcat #8 starts adorably with Patsy sleeping in her “Meow” sheets, but the tone goes from relaxing to tense as Ms. America crashes into the window in her usual dimension shattering way. However, Leth doesn’t have Hellcat picking a side or anything, but fiercely caring about her best friend and even busting into the Triskelion to hold her hand hopefully one last time. The reds that Rachelle Rosenberg uses in the scene where have a deathly feel to him, and Leth trades in the fun quips for pessimistic medical talk as it seems like She-Hulk is about to pass away. Hopefully, she doesn’t, but the as Leth and Williams take time to show happier.
Just like the super sad and classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Body”, Leth and Williams remember to sprinkle in some humor to alleviate the tragedy of She-Hulk’s injury. Howard the Duck is kind of the Anya of the group (Because she was formerly an ancient Vengeance Demon, Anya didn’t know how to process normal human loss.) as he makes threats and boasts about standing up to Thanos and knocking his block off. But the funniest and cutest part of the issue is definitely a superhero team-up between Hellcat and She-Hulk as she does her own version of the Fastball special on the way to Patsy’s marriage proposal to a giant, delectable pizza. One day I hope someone looks at me like Patsy looked at that giant pizza, which is a reminder of happier days when Patsy was She-Hulk’s private investigator during Charles Soule’s run on She-Hulk.
Hellcat #8 has a much more serious tone than the previous issues of the series as Leth makes her characters act like human beings when facing death and not as denizens of a shared superhero universe. This can definitely be seen in some of Williams’ art style choices and Rosenberg’s colors as well. For example, Patsy wears a dress that isn’t brightly colored to in striking contrast to her fun blue and yellow outfit when she hangs out with She-Hulk. She also draws four successive panels of Patsy staring into space as she tries to process She-Hulk’s injury before slipping into a kind of flashback space. For the most part, Rosenberg’s palette is pretty somber, but then she introduces bright yellow towards the end of the issue to signify the appearance of Jubilee as a new supporting character in the book. She is all smiles and coolness and adds a moment of cheeriness to a seriously down issue. I am looking forward to Patsy and Jubilee’s fierce and fun banter in issues to come.
In Hellcat #8, Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Rachelle Rosenberg take a break from the battle between Hedy and Patsy to zero in on the relationship between Patsy and She-Hulk, and how Civil War II has affected it. And the issue is a fitting eulogy for the strong, smart, and funny superheroine. (Hopefully, she pulls through and has a solo title in the future.) It’s a pretty emotionally devastating comic book with the slightest touch of light (No fireworks sadly.) at the end.
Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg Story: 8 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy