Sunday 6 October 2019

The Best of the Huntress: Wonder Woman #271 Review

Title: Wonder Woman #271
Story: Into Darkness Once More
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Harry Sims, Carole Martin, Solomon Grundy
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Joe Staton (artist)
Publication Date: 12 June 1980
Available In: Unavailable (for now...)

Summary: Helena Wayne visits the graves of her parents as the Huntress hoping that the comfort of their gravely 'presence' would help her train of thought as she investigates her current case. As she thinks back on the earlier events of her day, an old friend of hers—Winston Pitt—visited her law firm hoping to file a lawsuit against the museum exhibiting his paintings for the destruction of his work. Helena laments not being able to offer her services as a public interest lawyer, but agrees to help him in another capacity (as the Huntress). Following the clues of her investigation, Helena is led not to a petty vandal, but to one of the Green Lantern's deadliest villains!

Review: The month of October is here and I can't think of a better way to celebrate the spookiest month of the year than by reviewing a Huntress story I haven't reviewed yet: one involving a rather iconic undead villain.

Now, why I haven't I reviewed this one yet? Well, see, when I first started reviewing Helena Wayne's older stories seven years ago, I reviewed them out of order because originally I reviewed them based on whether or not a story theme coincided with the holiday of a given month. For example, if it was Christmas, I would review a holiday story involving the Huntress. If it was Halloween, I would review a monster story involving the Huntress. If it was Valentine's Day, I'd review a love story involving the Huntress. You get the idea.

Looking back on it now, it was a rather silly way to go about this endeavour since it made it easy to lose track of which stories I'd already covered and which ones I hadn't. Eventually I started reviewing them in chronological order beginning with the last story I reviewed. Now I'm just looking at which ones I've missed in the process, and luckily, the I've unearthed for this month is—coincidentally—appropriate for the month! But enough background story. Let's talk Huntress!

So this story is a bit all over the shop in the way it starts out, but I do like that we see more of Helena Wayne's work life in the offices of Cranston, Grayson, and Wayne, and that sometimes things get a bit bonkers. Or at least that's true whenever Helena Wayne's friend, Winston Pitt, comes to visit.

Very much in the spirit of a 1970s hippie, Winnie is loud, stylish, and a bit dramatic, perhaps to Helena's discomfort in a public space. Both Levitz and Staton sell the humour of this scene by eloquently juxtaposing a rather embarrassed Helena with an overly dramatic Winnie. Staton in particular drives it home brilliantly with the exaggerated body language.

Another thing that's enjoyable about this opening chapter is seeing Helena Wayne depicted as a detective, and how very connected she is to Gotham. Like her deceased father, Bruce Wayne, Helena keeps tabs on all of the criminal activity in Gotham. She even knows which fences are hot in the black market and where to find them.

We also see more of Helena Wayne's 'scare tactics' as the Huntress when confronting criminals for information, namely by threatening them with her crossbow and knives. She avoids hurting them...unless the situation calls for it...according to her.

We see more of Helena Wayne's moral greyness when it comes to hurting criminals for information, which is very similar to that of her father when he operated as Batman, most notably in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The only thing that differs here is that Helena tends to be a bit more snarky in her approach, which actually makes her more similar to her mother, Selina Kyle. Joe Staton once again delivers brilliantly on the art front, and demonstrates a strong understanding of Helena's character from Levitz' script.

The last major thing that happens in this story is that we are actually introduced to the character of Harry Sims in this issue, who later becomes Helena's romantic partner. However, the way we are introduced to him is a bit awkward considering that he's seen creeping around Helena's front door at 03:00 in the morning, which doesn't go unnoticed by Helena.

There is plenty of sexual humour in this scene as Helena teases him about his sexual intentions, which prompts Harry to immediately defend himself. Joe Staton once again sells it on the artwork in which he depicts Helena as playfully sexual but not sexualised, which affords her a great level of agency. And, of course, Harry's facial expressions throughout this sequence is pure comedy gold from Staton.

We're not introduced to the main villain of this story until the last page, but the cliffhanger here makes for a very strong opening in the next issue!


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