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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shawn Reviews DC Comics’ Huntress: Darknight Daughter

Along with the Diana Prince: Wonder Woman trades I picked up on eBay, I also picked up the Huntress: Darknight Daughter trade paperback. In this compilation are of all the appearances of the Earth-2 Huntress featured as backups in issues of Wonder Woman from 1979-1982. While I’m more familiar with the Helena Bertenielli version of the character, this trade made me see how great the Helena Wayne version of the character is. She’s one of the best superhero women to ever grace print comics, and could have easily carried her own title back in the day.

The adventures of the Huntress are featured on Earth-2 a reality where the Golden Age superheroes fought in World War II. On this Earth, Batman and Superman first appeared in 1939 and are now older, middle aged men. Bruce Wayne, the Batman of this Earth married a reformed Selina Kyle the former Catwoman and they had a baby daughter named Helena. Helena learned all of the tricks of trade from Mom and dad, and grew up to graduate at the top of her class in Law school and become a partner at Cranston, Wayne and Grayson in Gotham all at twenty-one years old.

As Helena is starting her professional career, one of Catwoman’s former henchmen tries to Blackmail her into doing one last job. On hearing about the caper at the museum for some jewels, Earth-2’s Batman comes out of retirement to investigate. Unfortunately, in trying to stop that crime it leads up to the death of Catwoman his wife. In the face of the tragedy, Earth-2’s Batman burns his cowl and retires permanently. But his daughter vows to bring her mother’s killer to justice. She dons a costume and goes into action as the Huntress.

After bringing her mother’s killer to justice, Helena continues on in her mission to fight all criminals just like her father. She takes on an array of bad guys from Lionmane to the Thinker to Karnage and big bads such as the Joker and Solomon Grundy. She even teams up with her best buddy Powergirl, continuing the tradition of DC’s World’s Finest. I can see why The Earth-2 Huntress became a fan favorite, she is a smart, double-tough chick just like dad. She’s driven and determined and takes on all comers with tenacity and passion. She takes her lumps in and keeps fighting and does not give up until the case is solved and the bad guys are brought to justice.

Even though these tales supposedly take place in an alternate universe I found them just as fresh and exciting as stories in the regular DC Universe. In fact these stories are so good I want them to be part of the regular DC Universe! Paul Levitz crafts compelling tales that draw the reader in and make them care about Helena and her supporting cast and even her villians. He does more in eight pages than some writers do in an entire run of comics today.

The art on this run of Huntress is also rock solid. Joe Staton puts a lot of passion and heart into his pencils of the Huntress, each panel feels inspired and alive. I wasn’t much of a Joe Staton fan back in the day when he drew Guy Gardner or Green Lantern, But in between seeing his work here and on the indie comic E-Man I’m becoming a big Joe Staton fan. He has a magic touch when it comes to drawing superhero women, and puts just the right emotions into a face in a panel. When inked by Bob Layton, Bob Smith, Steve Mitchell or Mike DeCarlo, or Stanton’s pencils really pop.

I have to say it’s sad that Helena Wayne no longer exists in DC’s continuity. She was one of the all-time great superhero women. A brilliant detective that was the equal of her father, and just as driven and determined to fight for justice. She was one of the best developed female characters in comics at the time; Paul Levitz gave her depth, dimension and complexity on par with many A-list male superheroes. This was one of the great runs in comic book history and it really should have remained part of DC’s Canon. After reading Helena Wayne’s stories, the Helena Bertinelli character that came after the Crisis in 1986 really feels second-rate. If only she could have had half of the character development of Helena Wayne she’d be twice as interesting.

I was glad to see Helena getting a rock-solid rogues gallery to take on in her adventures; she doesn’t get the fifth-rate jobbers most superhero women like Ms. Marvel and the She-Hulk had to take on back in the day. No, her villains are well thought out, well developed, and interesting on their own. From Lionmane to the Thinker to Karnage to the Crimelord, they all are well written and feel like credible threats. I was eager to see how Helena would overcome the odds with each of them. One of the strongest points of this run is that Helena as the Huntress has very strong interpersonal relationships with her arch-enemies and it’s that fantastic chemistry she shares with the bad guys that makes her stories all that more compelling.

As a writer of my own fantasy series featuring a strong female heroine in the lead, I learned a lot from Huntress: Darknight Daughter. This trade is a clinic on how you write a superhero woman, with heavy focus on interpersonal relationships, and tight compelling storytelling in both words and pictures. Reading some of the Huntress’ adventures reminded me of some of the stories I wrote in the Isis series books such as Isis: The Ultimate Fight, Isis: The Beauty Myth. And Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy. I’m going to take a lot of the lessons from this Trade into future stories in the Isis series and the E’steem series.

Huntress: Darknight Daughter is a great trade collecting some truly great comics. I highly recommend everyone try to pick up this trade for their collection.


  1. You stole them all thief!!!!

  2. No, I didn't steal them. I bought them with money I made from selling my eBooks. You can't steal from eBay.

    You want to help a brotha out? Buy an eBook or a paperback.