2016 has gotten off to a pretty dire foot, what with the deaths of two of the titans of Western entertainment, the spectre of a Labyrinth reboot, and winter pounding the hell out of everyone from coast to coast. To make myself feel better, I decided to start this Pull List off with something sunshine-y and fun. We could all use some pleasantness in our lives, and here to bring it are Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (plus a special peek at Faith).
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
Lunella is a geeky girl too smart for her own good. She’s also an Inhuman, albeit one who hasn’t developed her powers yet. On a scientific scavenging trip she stumbles upon a device she suspects to be a Kree Omni-Wave Projector. When her gym teacher accidentally activates the artifact, the cavepeople known as the Killer Folk and their arch enemy Devil Dinosaur are transported to Lunella’s timeline. Devil Dinosaur kidnaps Lunella to protect her and the device from the Killer Folk. The cavepeople, meanwhile, track them both down in an attempt to steal the device back and use it against the Small Folk. Look, the plot is very retro but it’s actually a lot more fun than it sounds. Lunella’s growing relationship with Devil Dinosaur and her genius look like push the story forward, and that’s where the real plot lies.
The characters are based on characters created by Marvel’s Jack Kirby and updated by writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder. Natacha Bustos joins them as the artist, Tamra Bonvillain as colorist, and Travis Lanham as letterer. Issue #1 came out November 25, 2015, and #3 dropped January 27, 2016.
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!
Trish Walker—formerly Patsy Walker, the teen star of her mom’s series of romance comics, and presently Hellcat, butt-kicking psychic superhero—needs a job. Being a second string Avenger has its benefits but lacks financial stability. And with the sudden influx of Inhumans shaking up the hierarchy, Trish is in the perfect position for transitioning superhumans. She enlists the help of She-Hulk and her landlord to help her set up her new temp agency, but until it gets off the ground she finds herself a wage monkey at the mall. Her new roomie, Inhuman Ian Soo, keeps her grounded as an old nemesis sets her sights on Hellcat. Tonally, Kate Leth’s Trish Walker couldn’t be more different than the iteration debuted on Netflix’s Jessica Jones, so new fans jumping over from TV land might find it a bit jarring. But both share all of the spark and fire so prevalent in Netflix’s version that the shift shouldn’t be too bad.
Writer Kate Leth, artist Brittney L. Williams, colorist Megan Wilson, and letterer Clayton Cowles are the masterminds behind Patsy Walker’s return to primetime. The first issue was released by Marvel on December 23, 2015, and #3 is scheduled for February 24, 2016.
To Pull Or Not To Pull
In a world where STEM fields are dominated by white men, Lunella is a breath of fresh air. She is a young Black girl in New York City obsessed with science and discovery and uninterested in dumbing herself down to satisfy those around her. She is brilliant even if she doesn’t have the wisdom of age and experience to do something grand with it. If anyone is going to solve this whole Terrigen Inhuman business it’ll be Lunella. I already have a whole headcanon of her and Tony Stark nerding out in his lab and out-sciencing the Science Bros. She’s a perfect example of the kind of characters Marvel should be putting in their books if they want to keep attracting new readers.
The biggest flaw, and I use that term very loosely, is that Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder’s plot doesn’t quite live up to Lunella’s genius. Not that it needs to be serious or intense, but so far there’s not enough to make anything not Lunella or Devil Dinosaur shine. The silly side outweighs the dramatic tension, making it hard to get deeply invested. Occasionally something deeper will eek through—despite her boldness, Lunella still quavers at standing up to a dinosaur that could very easily turn her into a snack—but sight gags like the Killer Folk dressed in a haphazard approximation of human attire wash it all away. I suspect that’s largely due to the all-ages rating and the younger audience they’re trying to attract, well, that and it’s still early days in the issues. There’s a sturdy foundation here, though, so I’m not terribly worried about it. And besides, as long as future issues keep having Lunella’s “big, red lamebrain” act like a petulant puppy, stamping feet and all, then I’m happy.
Natacha Bustos and Tamra Bonvillain team up wonderfully on art and colors here. The color palate is vibrant and bright with enough detail in the background for the world to feel more realistic than cartoonish—a helpful trick when you have a giant red reptile Godzilla-smashing its way through the Lower East Side. Travis Lanham had his work cut out for him with the sound effects alone and really brings out the energy of the text. And just like AKA Hellcat, Moon Girl is pleasantly racially diverse and feminist.
Kate Leth’s take on Hellcat was one of my most anticipated comics of 2015. Hellcat was one of my favorite guest stars in Charles Soule’s recent run on She-Hulk, and of course Rachael Taylor did a kickass job with Trish in Jessica Jones. Leth makes a helluva case for why the world deserves a new Hellcat comic. If Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is for girls and Ms. Marvel for teens, AKA Hellcat is squarely for young 20somethings. I’d argue it’s got more in common with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye than Marvel’s typical fare in the sense that Patsy’s tale is a slice of life rather than epic battles with deadly enemies.
Patsy’s broke in this storyline but she never lets it get her down. Same goes for her uber-complicated past, which is brought up frequently but never dwelt on, which is quite a feat given that the two main plot points center on figures tied both to her human and superhero pasts. Friendship is at the heart of the story, much as it is in Jessica Jones. Patsy cultivates new friendships as much as she resists delving into old romances and jumps into teamwork with the eagerness of a person who values the input of others. There’s a little bit of everything here—romance, superhero adventures, real life stresses—but mostly it’s just a ton of fun. If I had to suffer through Secret Wars to get to AKA Hellcat then so be it.
Brittney L. Williams’ style here has clear manga influences—there’s this absolutely adorable shot of chibi-esque Patsy threatening to kick someone that I’m very tempted to turn into a tattoo—but also draws from late 90s/early 00s cartoons. Megan Wilson opts for bright, lively colors and does a great job of portraying a diverse New York City/Brooklyn population. Digging Clayton Cowles work here, too. Written sound effects are used sparingly, but the text work is spot on. Speaking of diversity, Leth absolutely knocks it out of the park. Not that I was worried. If ever there was a comic book series I wasn’t fearful of how it would turn out diversity/feminism-wise it’s this one.
Marvel has made some very poor business choices lately (go ask your local Valkyrie about all the behind-the-scenes mess at shops caused by Secret Wars) but creatively they’re making some smart choices. And a lot of inane choices—don’t even get me started on Miles and Sam having to share their titles because the white dudes they replaced can’t move on. Still. I like to think characters like Lunella and Leth’s Patsy are going to be the norm, not the outliers. Like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, Moon Girl and AKA Hellcat have become one of those series I foist on everyone I meet. Might as well buy a bunch of loaner copies now.
Let me put it a different way. I’m trade only on DC titles, and Secret Wars cut off my Marvel subscriptions entirely, whittling my pull list down to nothing but Image for the last six months or so. That is until Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! dropped. So yeah, I’m a little in love right now.
Before we wrap this up, let’s take a quick gander at Valiant Comics brand new miniseries Faith. Written by Jody Houser, with art by Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage, and Joe Quinones, colors by Andrew Dalhouse, and letters by Dave Sharpe, the series released January 27, 2016. Compared to the solid A grades of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, I’d put Faith at a firm B+.
For a series set to have only 4 issues, there’s a metric ton of backstory, albeit very interesting. The first issue gets bogged down in so much infodumping that it eats up space where the plot should be whilst also rushing through so much exposition that the thrill of worldbuilding gets lost in the weeds. Portela’s art isn’t quite working for me either. It feels a little too computer generated and slightly flat, but the artwork done by Sauvage in the daydream sequences and Quinones for the flashbacks make up for it.
Faith herself is a delight. She’s a fun-loving geek with a vivid imagination and pleasant yet pragmatic view of the world. Faith, under Houser’s steady guidance, proves a comic book can have a fat superhero without it being a plot point. Her weight is never commented on but it’s also never ignored. She loves herself and her personal confidence draws in her fans both on and off the page. Faith is a great starting point for more superheroes with diverse body types. Here’s hoping we get to keep hanging out with Faith even after her 4 issues are done.
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.