Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trade Waiting - Huntress: Year One

Huntress is one of several characters that I was introduced to because of Justice League Unlimited, but I've never really read any comics about her either. Obviously, Huntress: Year One is as good a place to start with the comic book version of the character as any, so that's just what I did. Hit the jump to find out what I thought about the story.


Written by Ivory Madison
Art by Cliff Richards
Collects Huntress: Year One #1-6

As the name of the trade indicates, Huntress: Year One is the retelling of the origin for Huntress, ie. year one of her history. Some people have problems with DC's seemingly constant retelling of origin stories for just about any character they can think of, but they still make great introductions for new readers and does not automatically mean that it will be a bad story.

The story for Huntress: Year One is a basic revenge plot focusing on Helena witnessing her parents' deaths and, eventually, her planning to get back at the people who killed her family. With this, it ends up being more of a crime story than the standard super-hero story, which is a good thing since the early parts of the story, which focuses on the crime aspect, are better than the latter parts of the story, which have a more super-hero focus. The street level crime part takes up the first four issues, which are the strongest, and the Huntress costume doesn't even show up until the end of issue three, which is one thing I really liked. I think the longer a hero takes to put on the costume the better an origin story since it's about them becoming the hero, not being the guy or girl in the costume.

Although Ivory Madison doesn't do anything new with the basic revenge plot/motivation, it is supported by well written characters and there are some nice twists thrown in as well. Madison does a good job with Helena's character growth and motivations, but never really addresses why she puts on a costume and becomes a super-hero. She just kind of does at one point. In the story, Helena gets a fashion designer who makes military and police uniforms to put together a costume for her, so it makes a little sense in that regard, but lacks any real reason for no just a basic SWAT-like outfit. A minor point I suppose, but it is something that I felt needed at least a little explanation. The story isn't as oppressive or depressing as something like Criminal or Scalped, which is another plus for me.

In issue five, the story shifts to Gotham and takes a turn towards more of a standard super-hero story with Batman, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Catwoman all showing up. The problem is that the story keeps the serious crime tone yet brings in some of the sillier aspects of super-hero comics, like the crazy costumes and villains. Batman's is fine, but Batgirl has the bright blue and yellow and Catwoman is wearing her gray suit that has the big cat ears, which looks silly next to the modern and sleek Huntress costume.

There is also silly, almost cartoonish, change in the plot where Huntress has to stop the Gotham mob from flooding the city to make tonnes of money and make the mayor a national hero and Bruce Wayne is involved because he is trying gather evidence on them. It's absurd and kind of awkwardly stumbles along until the revenge plot comes back for a short while and ends the book.

Some other little odds and ends: since Madison comes from a background as a novelist, there is a tendency to over narrate at times, but I didn't find it too, too bad. There are also times when the story tries to be dramatic, but it comes off as kind of corny. But, again, it is only in a few instances and they are towards the beginning and end of the story, so they do not interrupt the main part of the book.

Batman also comes off as a chump, which kind of takes me out of the story since it is opposite to pretty much every other interpretation of Batman. It's just an easy way of making another character, in this case, Huntress, look better by downplaying someone with a higher profile. While the story does take place relatively early in Batman's career, it is the beginnings of Huntress's, so it comes off badly that she is upstaging him.

Since I know next to nothing about Huntress's origin the in the comics, the entire story was basically new to me, which probably made it more enjoyable to me than someone familiar with the character. One thing I really liked was Huntress's interaction with Catwoman and her attempts to play Huntress off of Batman for her own benefit. Madison also goes a good job with Catwoman's character.

The art by Richards is perfectly fine. It gets the job done and there are no real problems with it either. There are some nice character designs, like Huntress's costume, and his action scenes are fine as well. He also creates the perfect mood and tone for the book. The art supports the story but does manage to add some of its own charms as well.

Verdict - Check It. A solid introduction to the Huntress and, overall, an enjoyable story even if the book does some a few flaws.

Like this review? Interested in this book? Purchase Huntress: Year One from Amazon.com and help support The Weekly Crisis.

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Bill said...

Huntress: Cry for Blood came out... 2001-ish?... and established most of this story as Helena's origin, and it was pretty good. So when Year One came out, most of us who'd read Cry For Blood were scratching our heads as to why she'd need a Year One. And, I guess if you'd never read anything Huntress-y before, it works ok, but if you've read Cry For Blood, it's pretty dumb.

But the best Huntress stuff can be found in Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey.

Eric Rupe said...

Bill - I forget where I heard this, and don't know if its even true, but for some reason five to six years is given as the average number of years a person is active in reading comics. So, I guess DC thought enough time had passed to do a new retelling.

Birds of Prey is a book that I was interested in at one point, and I've read the first trade, but I'm probably not going to read anymore of the series.

Bill said...

The first trade of Simone's run, or the first trade overall (Chuck Dixon writing)? I thought Dixon's run was ok, just enough to keep me reading, but when Simone took over it improved a ton.

Eric Rupe said...

Simone's first trade. It was good but there is just other stuff I would rather read.

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