Hellcat was last seen in a serial that ran in the current incarnation of “Marvel Comics Presents”””. After languishing in obscurity since 2001’s Buffy-referencing reincarnation of the character failed to gain a foothold, Kathryn Immonen’s take on Patsy Walker as a relentlessly chipper superheroine clearly impressed someone at Marvel, because it’s now been spun out into its own miniseries.
The tone of the MCP stories is immediately continued here. With a full 22 pages in which to get going, it’s very hard not to be won over by the eccentricities of the book. Immonen’s dialogue is enormously fun to read, soaked with character and humor — there’s a lot of it, but you’re always left wanting a little more.
While Patsy Walker’s somewhat convoluted past is touched upon, the issue spends most of its time looking ahead as Iron Man posts Patsy to Alaska as part of The Initiative. You know, by herself. Immonen gets away with this largely ludicrous situation by having Patsy directly acknowledge and accept it. By playing her reactions with complete self-awareness, the two sides of the book — part-farce, part-genuine superhero title — join seamlessly.
LaFuente’s art certainly helps it all come together, looking not unlike Chris Bachalo as drawn by a manga artist. Some panels look like amazing, realistic vistas, and yet work perfectly alongside action shots with exaggerated, anime-esque camera angles or the elaborately-illustrated daydreams Patsy has throughout the narrative. LaFuente is displaying a massive amount of talent and his youthful characters and the sheer surplus of energy laid down on every page certainly make a substantial contribution towards realizing the quirky tone of the book.
It really has been a while since Marvel released such a charming comic, especially one so clearly aimed at a different audience than most of their superhero fare. While it’s early days for the miniseries, the strength of the first issue is practically enough to keep it running on goodwill for the remaining 4 issues. Not everyone is going to appreciate or understand the tone of “Hellcat,” so the important thing now is to make sure it finds its way into the hands of those that will as soon as possible, because there’s almost nothing else like it, and originality like this needs all the support it can get.