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on November 23, 2009
A little disclosure might be in order here: I loved the Huntress, the original one, Helena Wayne, first introduced about 30 years ago by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. That Huntress, Helena Wayne, the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman, was infinitely more interesting than Batgirl on Earth 1 (if you don't have any idea what that previous sentence was talking about, trust me--it's complicated, but suffice to say that comics readers of the '70s and '80s were well-versed in theories of different dimensions and alternate universes). That Huntress (by the way, her mother was Catwoman) practiced law by day and took the law into her own hands by night. She was both tough and human; not one of the impossibly superpowered humans who, after a short stint with a sensei somewhere, are able to do just about anything a story requires them to.

So I approached Huntress: Year One with more than a little trepidation. I hadn't taken a liking to the post-Crisis Huntress (again, complicated, but in the mid-'80s, DC issued a series called Crisis on Infinite Earths that wiped out its alternate universes and left just one earth and one incredibly long and convoluted history intact), so I was resistant somewhat to any rendition.

To offer a quick recap: In the new universe, the Huntress is now Helena Bertinelli, daughter of a slain mafia boss. Her family is massively tied in to a large criminal organization, but Helena, being a good person, breaks with her ugly family past and fights crime in Gotham City as the Huntress. Her weapon of choice: a crossbow. Her plan of action: whatever it takes, even if that means killing, a viciousness that is not shared or condoned by Batman. This puts her in the Dark Knight's bad column, and he doesn't take kindly at all to her running loose and acting as a vigilante in his city.

But Huntress: Year One veers off slightly (and wisely) from the previous reboot of the character to provide a more interesting character. The jumping-off point--daughter of a mafia family--remains the same, with Helena the sole survivor after her parents and brother were gunned down before her eyes when she was 8. Only the cross hanging from her neck saved her, as the assassin had a change of heart upon looking at it and her.

After being orphaned, Helena is sent to Sicily, where she learns how to hunt and be a woman who is not fearful of any man. The story here begins with Helena, now 20, just days away from her next birthday--and the large trust fund that will come with it.

Writer Ivory Madison, herself a former lawyer, is clearly a student of several of the better mob stories. She makes Helena ruthless, cunning, smart, and, above all, tough, but also a "good Catholic girl" who frequents church regularly. The opening scenes of Huntress: Year One play out somewhat stereotypically, but it sets the scene for Helena's eventual rebirth as a costumed heroine (or hero--Helena thinks a heroine is just someone who gets rescued by the hero of the story, and she definitely doesn't need to be rescued).

Huntress: Year One redefines the character wonderfully, a much better reenvisioning than the previous version and one that sets her up to be a powerhouse character yet still relatable as a human being. Not only did I like this story, but I liked this Huntress and wanted to see more. Hopefully, Madison will keep writing this character and putting her through her paces. Helena as written by her is too interesting to disappear now.

-- John Hogan
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on July 13, 2008
Inconsistent art, poor storytelling, and a very strange hatred toward men make for one of the poorest releases in this characters history.

Nothing in this reboot even remotely feels like the Huntress of old. Every man in this story is either a pervert or woman beater. The only slightly likeable male is a murderous gangster. Good grief.

Do yourself a favor and stick with the wonderful Birds Of Prey stories written by Gail Simone.
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on April 14, 2015
Not my favorite of the Huntress options, but enjoyable still.

Here, she's a little scary--a brush of insane feeling, her rage so hot it has reached the deadly cold stage known as wrath. And lost. A young woman broken inside and trying to put her pieces back together and finding that they don't all fit right, but still trying anyway because that is all she can do. She is PTSD on top of PTSD, with emotional and mental damage piled one right after the other from childhood up. She's at the fork in the road--where she is about to become either a dark hero or on hell of a villain. And in spite of everything, once she feels she's had some form of justice, some form of righteous vengeance, whatever that is still in her that is what is left of innocence, takes up the hero's mask. She's unpredictable and driven, haunted and bursting from the ashes at once.

The story has a lot of symbolism--everything from one 'taking' her payment to her choice of costume to her final 'baptism' and 'christening'. Even who is involved has importance and adds layers and references. And it is done with beauty and humor--but the kind one sees in a weapon rather than in a painting because under it all is her taking up the cause for battle, for justice and protection, rather than for healing.

The dialogue is interesting and meaningful, suitable for the story. The artwork is lovely, even scary this woman is gorgeous.

Still, I prefer the less angry more faithful versions of Huntress. Better realism and depth, more natural feeling. But, even though this one is the other style, it still makes for a good read for all the above reasons. If this were less, shall I say, old school feminist and more genuine Helena, I would have liked it far more but writers often put in their own beliefs over the top of characters and Huntress has had this happen to her before at times in Birds of Prey. Personally, I think a strong powerful Catholic woman doesn't need to take umbrage over male and female word usages--males aren't the root problem, evil is. Of course, to be fair to Madison, many woman who have been victimized in one form or another by males often hit this 'separation' stage first--and only over time settle down in healing to realize that gender isn't the problem, the problem is people choosing to do evil, so from a psychological standpoint at least Madison is presenting an accurate state that women emerging from horror and fear into rage often begin with. The story is pretty much an example of the stages of grief.

Huntress has a number of 'origins' now--and while I prefer a more complete character Helena, I did like seeing how she is presented at coming to her 'cape and cause'--slowly over a period of time, changing as she went. I liked how you see her will, not just her ferocity, drive her continually forward.

Here, in this version, she begins as the fearful, powerless, enraged and defiant girl child. Becomes the willful and hard young woman who will not yield. And at last stands as the proud woman who dares to choose her own way. Helena as a girl child in an Italian mafia world, sees her world as male/power and female/victim--and rebels against the injustice of it. So, as a girl/young woman, she tries to move herself out of what she perceives from this world she is in as the 'weak' category of female and into the 'strong' category of male--by rejecting everything that puts her into that category. This, as noted earlier, is one of the phases many abused or severely dominated females hit. I did like how Madison shows that it is as Helena experiences love--in 'family' as well as in romance--that she begins to truly understand that to be female isn't inherently weak and to be male isn't inherently strong, it is in your heart, your drive, your cause, your purpose. It is in doing justice and making wrongs right. It is protecting the innocent and destroying evil. And as this love comes from men, this really helps turn her back a bit from the danger of letting rage at injustice become unreasoning hatred. Enough that by the end of this story she can give herself the name Huntress and see it as power even as it is female. I really liked that, as it showed her progression in healing. The wronged girl at last seeing herself as grasping her own power at last.

Of course, because this is an origin story, it doesn't leave you with the 'completed' Huntress, it 'ends' at this new beginning of her life. Which makes her symbolic baptism rather fitting. You can see it is going to take years for her to settle into full acceptance of herself, to feel confident enough to realize that whether in heels and expensive dresses or in Kevlar and battle armor, she is not lessened or 'weakened' either way. And that is okay. I LIKE this aspect of Madison's writing. In fact, that is what makes the story more realistic. It WOULD take years to undo the damage her mafia world did to her. But Helena is strong and you can see her doing it, so ending the story here works right.

So, when you read this, don't expect a 'settled into her own skin' Huntress. Expect a 'hard birthing' Huntress story. And while it lacks the beauty and depth of other Huntress stories and is more the defiance and anger of some Huntress stories, it is still a good read. There is humor and courage and passion and the beginning of healing--and that does suit Huntress quite well.
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on July 5, 2009
I am a big JSA fan and the elimination of the Huntress from DC's Continuity by Crisis was one of the sorest points in this otherwise excellent series.

I have seen the revamped character in JL and on TV's JL Unlimited series on Cartoon Network and while I thought most of the good points of the character were preserved it was not a character I thought I'd want to read about in background. I was given a copy of this and was very impressed with it.

Huntress is very much the same character but with more depth. Her motive is not just family business but personal history. The writer has made her different than the other women in "Batman family" and that is good. Huntress makes mistakes and has rough relationships with some other DC characters but it fits based on the new characterization.

Comic characters should not be interchangeable just by change their costumes and Ms. Madison does it by contrasting Barbara Gordon (Batgirl / Oracle) and Selena Kyle (Catwoman).
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on May 24, 2011
As a general rule, I hate tinkering with a character's origins. I was originally LIVID with the changes to the DCU back with Crisis On Infinite Earths, even though that has led to some of the best work in comics that was EVER done. (Crisis On Infinite Earths) Helena has come a LONG way from her initial history of being the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. I can't go into too many details without spoiling an excellent plot and a mystery that spans the entire mini series, but suffice to say that the character of Huntress is born LONG before she dons the mask and cape. This goes into the history of why she's such a devout Catholic, which in itself adds amazing depth to the story, and is rarely seen in this day and age. But it brings the character to life, as she clings to her faith, even as she is driven by the need for revenge. It explains how Huntress learns to fight the way she does, and what makes her return to the city that truly birthed her, more than a decade before... Gotham. And that, of course, leads into conflicts with Batman, DELICIOUS chats with Catwoman, an encounter with Batgirl, with a tongue in cheek nod to their future in Birds of Prey, as it's stated that she and Barbara clearly aren't new best friends. LOL (Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds) And underlying it all is BRILLIANT writing, and a truly tragic story of love found, love lost, and love replaced with hate, not to mention gorgeous art work. I turned the pages one after the other, and could NOT put it down until I was done. And honestly, when it comes right down to it, is there any better compliment for a review? If you love the Huntress, or are just a fan of a great story with great art, then this is absolutely something you won't be disappointed in.

Thanks so much for your time folks.
Sincerely, R.A. McDowell
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on September 18, 2014
Good art, solid story, though at times the writing gets a little ham-fisted with its Girl Power message rather than just letting the character and her actions stand on their own for female empowerment. No super villains, just a mob tale, with Batman and company in a small role. Helena's origin was previously told in Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood. I think this version is better (and isn't told in flashback) overall, despite some details being superior in the earlier work.
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on July 3, 2009
First the "confession" - I haven't read a comic book since I was a child and even then it was Archie, Dennis the Menace, etc. This is quite a departure for me. I've never before read a graphic novel.

The Huntress isn't your little girl's comic book. The story is more on the order of "The Soprano" meet "Batman." The entire premise of a series is set up in this book. We meet The Huntress as a little girl, watch with her as her family is murdered in front of her, follow her to Italy and then back to Gotham where she seeks to avenge the deaths and stop the mafia.

Among the surprises along the way are some very bloody scenes, dark ones in every sense of the word. Cliff Richards creates such strikingly dark artwork that it's often difficult to concentrate on the words. Ivory Madison's dialogue includes some surprises including a mobster's anti-Semetic dig at Mort Sahl and a "Silent Majority" political stab. Interesting to see in what is, essentially, a comic book. And a bit startling.

All in all, this is a fairly unusual experience for the person who thinks of comic books as fun entertainment. It's entertaining but the "fun" will depend upon your definition of the word.

It plays out like a film noir and, perhaps, that's exactly where it's headed.
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on June 19, 2012
I was pretty confused reading Huntress Year One after reading Cry for Blood. The introduction states that sometimes different versions/backgrounds of a character may happen from time to time (continuity clashes, time travel and such... we are familiar to "reset" buttons in comics) but this story is just terrible. Huntress has been known from last couple of years to be a female vigilante, that like Red Robin, pretty much stays in the gray area of DC heroes, craving for Batman's approval... and Huntress Year One just ignores whatever has been published before, from the origin to costume concept and personality. As you read a book with Year One for title... you expect a hero in training, developing... and making sometimes bad choices. This is not the case. Huntress in this book is depicted as confident, a true martial master and detective to the bone. Though the book has great art... it's not about the Huntress we know. Buy Cry for Blood instead.
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on July 8, 2010
I enjoyed reading Ivory Madison's take on Helena Bertinelli, but it was not without its flaws which were significant and perhaps almost fatal.

The first thing to know is that despite the clarity of the title, Madison's story takes place in less than two months and only at the very end does protagonist Helena Bertinelli adopt the Huntress persona. Titles should say something about the story; in this case 'Origins' would have been far more appropriate than 'Year One', which since Frank Miller's use of it has become more like a name brand than a description of the story being told.

Second, as noted above, the book's time frame is less than two months, divided between Sicily and Gotham City, requiring a lot of exposition and action driving the characters rather than the characters driving the action. The final chapters with Helena dealing with her love interest and the Gotham mob's plot felt contrived and not organically growing from the earlier chapters. Batman's appearances were especially heavy handed and the resolution of the story didn't ring true at all.

Third, the portrayal of Helena's Catholic faith is troubling. Throughout the story, Helena is shown to be pious and is described as a good Catholic girl. At the same time, she is shown to be a strong female hero, a true feminist, fighting against a chauvinistic culture. These two aspects are certainly not mutually exclusive. Madison though brings them into conflict by showing Helena resenting the use of masculine pronouns for describing the Divine Person. This just seems false and contrived with all the other efforts to describe Helena as a real Catholic struggling with her faith as she fights the mob.

The art by Cliff Richards is what keeps the story moving. I especially liked Helena's costume with its darker tone compared to the usual lighter shade of purple. She was attractive and curvy without the feminine aspects of her form being exaggerated and Richards makes sure Helena is a true beauty. The action and fighting were well drawn and easy to follow.

Basically, I don't dislike Huntress: Year One. It has some major flaws in terms of story and pacing, but it is a good psychological look at Helena Bertinelli and has excellent drawing. I would recommend 'Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood' for the better origin story of Huntress and a good look at Helena and her relationship with Batman and the rest of the Gotham caped heroes.
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on August 16, 2008
I have to echo what the first reviewer said. This is the worst release by DC Comics - ever. Terribly written, inferior art, not worth anything but the paper shredder. This is definitely not the Huntress. It's just a mess.
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