Writer: Ivory Madison
Penciller: Cliff Richards (not the singer)
Inkers: Norm Rapmund and Rebecca Buchman
Colours: Jason Wright
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Publisher: DC Comics
What's it about?
DC's Year One books take a look at famous heroes and provide us with stories about their first year of crimefighting. They usually give us the background of the character, deal with their first fights and provide us with the information and events that shape them into the established characters most DC readers are familiar with.
Helena Bertinelli is the Huntress, a costumed crimefighter with no superpowers, operating out of Gotham. She has worked with Batman, Batgirl and other notable characters in the DC mythos.
She is the daughter of a high ranking Catholic mafia family, and when she is just a young child, 8 years of age, a mafia hitman comes to her house and shoots her father, mother and brother in front of her. She is then packed off to Gotham and is brought up in another family's house, until the age of 21 when she can claim her inheritance.
Unsurprisingly, she grows up determined to take out the men who ordered the hit on her family. She learns how to fight, keeps her Catholic faith, hates the mafia and decides to do all she can to take them down. Her evolution from a toughened, bitter and angry 20 year old to the persona of the Huntress is the subject of the book. On the way she meets Bruce Wayne (Batman), Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in and out of costume.
What's good about it?
If you ever wanted to read a feminist comic about women taking no bullshit and standing up for themselves then this is for you. Helena Bertinelli is tough, independent, can fight like anything and was brought up by a very cool nanny who taught her the sexism of opera (all the women die or are rescued and the murderous men survive). Before her family's murder she questions her brother as to why women can't be Pope. The book weaves in a small rape sub plot (not concerning Helena) and does so intelligently and delicately.
Aside from the positive portrayal of women within the book, it's a downright good read. It's a decent mafia family story that examines loyalty, religion and revenge. Helena's out of costume meetings with Bruce Wayne and Babara Gordon, especially with Barbara, do a great job of laying down the groundwork for their future relationships, both in this book and further out of it.
The art is great and creates a wonderful sense of atmosphere. There's no cheesecake, tits and ass shots, and on the whole everyone is treated respectfully. Helena has a practical costume that does it's job of allowing her to be an effective crimefighter and it covers her up.
What's bad about it?
There are a few panels where the art is slightly inconsistent with previous depictions in the book. Unfortunately most of these inconsistencies seem to centre on Helena's breast size. However, her chest isn't the focus of the panels and it doesn't read as objectifying. Additionally, there are no gratuitous breast shots, no uncomfortable poses and no otherwise degrading images.
If you don't like violence you probably won't like this book. There's a lot of shootings and blood.
Whats the art like?
A mixture of light and dark, depending on the scene. The inker may seem a bit heavy handed as there is a whole lot of black in the art, but it does suit the mood of the book: