Friday, 7 September 2018

The Best of the Huntress: Wonder Woman #315 Review

Title: Wonder Woman #315
Story: Chasing Rainbows
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Tom Kelly, Gary Minelli, Sea Lion
Creators: Joey Cavalieri (writer), Mark Beachum (artist)
Publication Date: 02 May1984
Available In: Digital

Summary: The Huntress has moved on to her newest case, but has no idea where to start looking. All she knows is that there is one Dr. Mizuki Tori--the head researcher of Project Starfish--and stolen data from said project. She has no leads on the culprit and begins her investigation by looking into a new hospital intern as a possible suspect, Tom Kelly. Huntress rationalises that the person leaking Dr. Tori's research has to be someone working close to her with easy access to the data. If the Huntress is wrong, she'll be back to Square 01...or will she?

Review: This is admittedly one of my favourite Helena Wayne Huntress stories from the Joey Cavalieri era. I honestly can't think of a better way to celebrate Helena's canonical birthday today than with the seven page chapter that establishes three interesting plot threads Cavalieri will develop in future stories: a potential new love interest, the Huntress' continued impact on Gotham, and more focus on Helena Wayne's detective skills. First, the love interest!

We first met the character of Tom Kelly in the previous chapter that followed up on the Earthworm storyline in a brief cameo. On the one panel he did get, Cavalieri established right away that Kelly is both attracted to and intimidated by the Huntress at the same time, kind of in a similar fashion that a person would be in the presence of a real celebrity. In this chapter, Cavalieri develops the character further by explicitly confirming Kelly's romantic attraction to the Huntress in the scene where he invites her to listen to some Motown records with him in his flat. The Huntress politely declines, but Cavalieri nonetheless sets up a premise for future meet ups.

Another character Cavalieri follows up on in this chapter is one that became a recurring character in the last two story arcs: Gary Minelli, a Gotham police officer who is also romantically attracted to the Huntress. However, unlike Tom Kelly who has something of a schoolboy crush on the Huntress, Minelli is much more obsessive and to a very discomforting degree. Although he was assigned to stakeout the Huntress by Police Commissioner O'Hara in response to public pressure, Minelli once again admits in this chapter that he would still stalk the Huntress, even if he wasn't being paid to do so.

When it comes to Helena Wayne's romantic relationships, it's interesting the kinds of men Cavalieri is exposing the character to. Out of the three--Harry, Gary, and Tom--only one of these men has not displayed toxic behaviour, and that is Tom Kelly. Somehow, I don't think that's an accident when you consider how Cavalieri depicted the previous two guys.

With Helena's actual boyfriend, Harry Sims, Cavalieri all but hid his toxic masculinity. A man who--at first glance--appeared to be concerned for the safety of his girlfriend has gradually revealed that he actually resents Helena's independence and agency as a person. This led to an increase in controlling behaviour (such as controlling her access to information at his office) and taking advantage of any situation to tear her down. This either took the form of him castigating her (like a parent does to an insubordinate child) or ridiculing her "feminine behaviour" the moment she displayed affection to an infant child.

What all of these behaviours revealed about Harry is that he wants a woman who is subordinate and won't challenge his authority as a man. He doesn't view women as equal. This chapter is the first time Helena acknowledges Harry is a pretty toxic guy, but also doesn't indicate any thoughts of leaving him, which seems to hint at codependency.

With Gary Minelli, he finds the Huntress sexually alluring, but in a disturbingly creepy way. The first time he met her, he undressed her and took her back to his flat to "sleep off" the drug she was injected with at Arkham Asylum. It is unknown what else he did to her while she was unconscious, but the fact that he undressed her alone offers a disturbing hint.

In his subsequent appearances, Minelli revealed his predatory line of thought and continues to admit in this chapter that he would happily stalk the Huntress on his own time. This is the kind of behaviour that immediately raises red flags to a lot of women, but Helena in this chapter seems to think of him as an ally. Though she is not yet aware of his stalking, a woman in Helena's position would still avoid further contact with him on waking up naked in his bed at his flat alone.

This kind of gets us back to the main point of discussion: what was Joey Cavalieri trying to communicate about Helena Wayne as a character with these two men? On the one hand, he is presenting Helena with two different types of toxic men, perhaps as a way of eventually making her realise she deserves better and should pursue better, healthier relationships. This is, perhaps, where Tom Kelly factors into this equation. On the other hand, he could also be revealing a disturbing behavioural pattern within Helena that leads her to pursue relationships with toxic men.

The next best thing about this chapter is the focus on Helena Wayne's skills as a detective, which are superbly augmented by Mark Beachum's pencils. In the opening pages alone, we see a very meticulous Helena Wayne looking into every detail of her new case as the Huntress and planning her moves carefully. This is the most "Dark Knight Daughter" Helena gets in this story with all of her attacks coming from her father's playbook with some Catwoman-inspired posing.

I would say my favourite scene in this story that best showcased Helena's mastery of her detective skills was in the art gallery sequence where performing a trivial behaviour led her to deduce the culprit behind the leaking of Dr. Tori's regeneration research. That scene in particular showed that a combination of Helena's knowledge of art and chemistry played a role in being able to decode a cleverly disguised theft that was hiding in plain sight all along! The way Joey Cavalieri executed this deduction was nothing short of brilliant!

Lastly, there is still the damage that Nedra Borrower caused to Helena Wayne's reputation as the Huntress. While characters like Dr. Peake, Dr. Tori, and Tom Kelly are not particularly intimidated or bothered by the Huntress' presence, the presence of Nedra's damaging impact is still felt. Other people still avoid the Huntress the moment she enters the room and are not seen interacting with her. They go about their own way almost as if she wasn't there.

While Joey Cavalieri doesn't dwell too heavily on exploring the consequences of the Huntress' actions and how the news media represented her to the public, he also doesn't ignore that development and continues to find subtle ways to show the damage. This is admittedly one of the ways Cavalieri keeps me interested in reading the next chapter in the Huntress' narrative. The chapter that follows this one certainly doesn't disappoint on those fronts!

★★★★★

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