Everybody has that one friend who thinks they’re funny. Wants desperately to be funny. Tries constantly to be funny. And they just aren’t. Almost ever. As in almost never. You love them but you want to smack them half the time. Sure, they land a good one-liner every now and again but by the time they do you’re so exhausted and shell-shocked you just wish they would shut the fuck up and talk about their colonoscopy or their dead pet or any other fucking thing. That’s how I feel about Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat.
When Jessica Jones was released on Netflix, I got into a spirited discussion with feminist author/icon and media critic surpreme, Deborah Lipp, about the show. Aside from the obvious drooling we did over the writing and the cast we wound up raving about how it treated the character of Patsy Walker. I full agreed with Deb that updating Patsy from a romance magazine teenybopper to a Disney style child star was brilliant. I went on to rave about how deftly she had been used in the recently cancelled (and excellently penned) She-Hulk . At that point Deb admitted she wasn’t keeping up with current titles and I, being a bit lit, raved at her like a wild-eyed goon until someone distracted me away with the promise of 18 year old Scotch and Deborah made good her escape.
In any event, after Jessica Jones and She-Hulk I was primed for a bit of whimsy and some frothy, feminist adventures with a (hopefully not to preachy) message thrown in once in a while. I’m still waiting. OK, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bury the book or fling monkey turds at the team in charge. It’s not a bad book. It’s just not living up to it’s potential. And that’s an honest shame because, on paper, it has everything it needs to succeed.
First off, it’s written by Kate Leth of Kate Or Die and penciled by Brittney Williams. The triumvirate of accomplished women is capped off with colorist, Megan Wilson. Fangirl’s hearts should be going pitter-pat by now. Williams’ pencils are positively airy. Together with Wilson’s Easter Pageant colors, the art perfectly compliments Leth’s breezy stories. But the stories themselves? Well, I’ll get to that.
Patsy doesn’t let things get her down. Having been a one time child celebrity, the wife of the Son of Satan and then subsequently dead, she has seen and survived it all. She’s currently out of work since Attorney Jennifer Walters a.k.a. She-Hulk can no longer afford to employ her as a private investigator. But, no worries! Patsy has a cunning plan. After the release of the Terrigen Cloud, super powered individuals are popping up like zits on a weightlifter’s back. Patsy wants to put together an employment service for them. Thus far we have a promising set up. It gets better.
Patsy has not one but TWO gay BFFs. She has chronic housing issues. She has a rather inept archenemy. Everyone is making money off of her pop culture status (except Patsy). She can’t keep her mask on. She pesters the shit out of other heroes like She-Hulk and Doctor Strange (who seem to pity her the way you would a brain damaged puppy). She gets into battles with slumlords and their bedbug summoning sons… Are you getting the picture. It’s a comic goldmine.
So why isn’t it funny?
No, really. Why isn’t this book funny. It has everything it needs. Leth’s self conscious pluck is just a little too self consciously plucky. Couple that with the precious cover art (Queen Medusa drinking Lattes with Howard the Duck ferchrissakes) and you can just tell that everyone involved thinks this whole affair is just all kinds of clever. But I’m not laughing. And I really like to laugh. Make me laugh, goddamn it!
I really want this book to succeed. I really want this book to be funny. Or poignant. Or whatever it takes. Patsy Walker is a character that plenty of writers have taken serial dumps upon. She deserves better. And hey, comic books aren’t free. I deserve better, too. Pick up your game, Ms. Leth. No more super aren’t-we-clever fangirl bullshit. Time to hone your chops. Maybe you need to read some Ms Marvel? Now there is a title that manages to combine feminism, multiculturalism, humor and sweetness into one delicious fangirl taco. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Anyway, that all sounded pretty mean. And you know I hate to be a dick. I guess what I’m saying is, you have all the ingredients. Now Bake up something that dazzles us. I get the feeling that, if they are given time, this team will find their groove and start to bring us some cheer. I’m willing to invest a little more time in the enterprise. A little. If nothing else, Patsy has earned that much.
Anyway, that’s just my opinion. But I’m always right. Mostly.
He also sings for the Supra-70s band, RIFLE.