Writer: Christopher Cantwell
Art: Alex Lins
Colors: KJ Diaz
Letters: VC’s Ariana Maher
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 15th, 2023
In Hellcat #1, Patsy Walker (AKA Hellcat) is starting over in San Francisco, moving back into her old family home (which happens to be haunted by her mother) and no longer having her mind-reading powers. Before she can get too comfortable though, she becomes involved in a grisly murder case where she’s the prime suspect. It’s a grim beginning to the mini-series, combining a surprisingly graphic giallo-style murder with paranormal elements.
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Hellcat has had one of the most diverse histories of any character in the Marvel Universe. She debuted in romance comics as a perpetually lovelorn teenager, then a couple years later popped up in Fantastic Four Annual #3 in 1965. She has been a member of The Defenders and The Avengers (both the East and West Coast versions), married The Son of Satan, was trained in martial arts and psychic combat by Moondragon and worked as a private detective with Jennifer Walters (AKA She-Hulk). Yep, she’s seen it all, but the excitement hasn’t ended yet! In Hellcat #1, we’re thrown right into a new crisis in Patsy Walker’s life. Spalding, a man who Patsy had become close with has been brutally murdered and Patsy has no memory of what happened with him the night before. Could she have killed him? This debut issue feels more like a psychological thriller or police procedural than a superhero book. The book switches between the present, where Patsy is interrogated by the police and deals with the nagging ghost of her mother, and the past, where we see how the “Annie Hall”-type way Patsy met Spalding. We also get flashbacks to Patsy’s childhood, which may hold answers to what happened with her the night before Spalding’s murder.
I like this gritty atmosphere for Hellcat’s book. It has the feel of the 80’s Frank Miller Daredevil books, where you felt that nothing else in the world existed other than the grimy city streets the characters walk. This book is the antithesis of the light-hearted She-Hulk or Deadpool books. It suits Patsy and it looks like the whole mini-series will maintain this noir atmosphere. Rick Sheridan, who summoned the hero Sleepwalker in the past, makes an appearance here too, as Patsy returns to the crime scene and starts tracking down clues. This was my only problem with the book and I chuckled when Patsy finds a huge GLOWING Sleepwalker-related clue at the crime scene that should have easily been spotted by any detective or police officer. Was everyone that analyzed the crime scene before her blind or drunk to have missed that? The issue ends with a startling revelation by Rick Sheridan that’s going to make things a lot more complicated for Patsy in issues to come.
The art by Alex Lins and KJ Diaz on Hellcat #1 is a loose sketchy style similar to past artists like Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s normally not a style I’m fond of, but it fits the mood of the book, which seems perpetually coated in dark clouds and shadows, so much so that it makes Gotham City look like the Rainbow Bridge by comparison. My main problem with the art is that the faces seem barely drawn at times. I swear in a couple panels Patsy’s face consists of two dots, a line and squiggles. Other scenes are drawn in such a sketchy manner it’s hard to decipher what’s happening at that moment.
Hellcat #1 begins the mini-series with a tantalizing mystery, providing more background on Hellcat’s past as she wrestles with her inner demons while trying to find answers to Spalding’s brutal murder. Rick Sheridan is an interesting twist in the mix and I look forward to seeing how the story continues next issue.