Sunday 20 October 2019

The Best of the Huntress: Wonder Woman #272 Review

Title: Wonder Woman #272
Story: The Monster and the Masterpiece
Characters: Huntress (Helena Wayne), Harry Sims, Carole Martin, Solomon Grundy
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Joe Staton (artist)
Publication Date: 10 July 1980
Available In: Unavailable (for now...)

Summary: After agreeing to seek justice for Winston Pitt whose paintings were destroyed in museum custody, Helena Wayne quickly learns the destroyed paintings were actually forgeries of Winston's work with the originals most likely stolen. Deciding to have another look around the museum as the Huntress, Helena Wayne soon discovers that the looter is none other than Green Lantern's old foe, Solomon Grundy. But Grundy isn't interested in Winston's work. He's after something else he's fallen in love with: a marble statue of a woman!

Review: There's no denying it: this story is wild! I actually don't even know where to begin with this one, so I guess I'll start at the beginning: Helena underestimating Grundy's danger threshold worked against her favour, big time! It even resulted in some of her most embarrassing moments this issue.

When it comes to Helena's depiction in this story, two things are showcased about the character: one weakness, one strength. On the strength side, Helena is depicted as a meticulous detective. She examines every clue in detail and is quite skilled at identifying patterns, which is how she is able to deduce that the destroyed Winston Pitt paintings are actually forgeries. More to the point, however, her obsessive attention to detail leads her to the actual culprit: Solomon Grundy.

Discovering Grundy's involvement in the art museum heist actually results in one of Helena's major weaknesses being exploited. Being the daughter of Batman and Catwoman as well as possessing all of their skills tends to make Helena overconfident in her ability to take down dangerous villains. The fact that she is a member of the Justice Society on top of that especially augments those feelings. Though her arrogance is not entirely without merit (she is, in fact, good at what she does), the fact that she is still new to the superhero lifestyle by this point in her journey is what facilitates Grundy's easy dispatching of her.

Speaking of Grundy, there is a theme of creepy obsession with finding a female companion that borders on Bride of Frankenstein crossing with the Greek story of Galatea and Pygmalion. Like Frankenstein's monster, Grundy is undead but not without feeling and desires to have a female companion. Given that he is a corpse meshed with swamp matter, he is not likely to attract a living, breathing human woman with warm blood still coursing through her veins. As such, he is left with either finding a corpse bride, or an inanimate object that will fulfil his needs in some way. This leads him to the female statue that I'll refer to as 'Galatea' for the sake of this discussion.

Exactly what Grundy intended to do with that statue can be left to the imagination of the reader, but the fact that he admires Galatea for her beauty is not unlike Pygmalion's adoration for his own creation. The difference of course is that Pygmalion got his wish of Galatea being turned into a real human companion by the Greek gods while Grundy's own Galatea ended up in pieces thanks to his fight with the Huntress.

The destruction of Galatea subsequently put Helena in a position of either being brutally murdered by Grundy as punishment for destroying his mate, or she'll end up taking her place as compensation for that loss. Either way is a truly horrifying situation for any woman to be in as both violent situations dehumanise the woman in question and treats her as an object. Given that Grundy had a literal object in the shape of a woman to start with, him choosing to enslave Helena isn't an unlikely scenario in place of actually killing her.

One last major theme that is explored in this story before wrapping up is Helena's inability to maintain a good 'work-life balance' between her personal life and her superhero lifestyle, especially when the two happen to intersect. A type of subplot that was rarely explored in superhero stories prior to this point. The scene where Helena comes into work looking incredibly sleep deprived is perhaps my favourite scene in this entire issue.

Joe Staton does an excellent job at conveying both a tired and stressed look on Helena's face that in no way gives away what she was really up to the night before. Her interaction with Harry in this sequence is particularly funny precisely for the candid way with which she expresses her annoyance. Between Harry's problem and Helena's problem with Grundy, however, I would argue Harry's problem is relatively easier to deal with.

As for what what does end up happening to Helena in Grundy's grasp, we'll find out this upcoming Halloween!


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