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The Huntress (Helena Bertinelli)

This Huntress Blog is dedicated to the DC character, Helena Bertinelli.  Many have enjoyed the character in the pages of Birds of Prey, but where did she get her gritty start?  Follow this blog as we go on the journey of visiting these old stories, which created the building blocks towards the character we love today!  

Writer: Joey Cavalieri  
Pencils: Joe Staton 
Editor: Andrew Helfer
Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Inker: Dick Giordano 
Letterer: Albert T. De Guzman 
Colorist: Nansi Hoolahan
Editor: Andrew Helfer 
Cover Date: May 1989
Release Date: March 14, 1989
Cover Price: $1.00

In The Huntress #1, Joe Cavaleiri gave us a crash course of what we needed to know about this new Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, oppose to the pre-crisis one, Helena Wayne.  Actually, from my vantage point, because I read issue one after the fact, to put it mildly, the debut issue comes off as a crash course, but actually, I have to say, for someone who was reading the book in real time, issue one is rather action packed.  

In issue two which is entitled, "Uneasy Lies the Head...", a reference to Shakespeare's King Henry IV part two, we get a cast of characters who are well rounded based on actions and dialogue.  The landscape written by Cavalieri not only feels real and immediate, but with the multiple players that he plays with in this issue, as a reader, I didn't mind Huntress not being on every page at all.  
Let us go back to the late 80's early 90's, where the crack epidemic ripped a hole through many major cities in the United States.  I grew up in a big city where I witnessed how crack affected the community and the effects of the drug on the community.  Again, this book goes straight for the jugular.  As you can see this neighborhood has the banner: Drug Dealers Get Out.  Joey Cavalieri had his pen on the pulse with the subject matter.  And the drug "crack" is actually mentioned in this story.  Creators always have to be careful when covering something so real like this, especially if the creative team doesn't really have a background or a close connection to it.  Many people in the United States did not use crack; however, there are many who knew a relative, co-worker, or friend whose life was affected by the drug and the lifestyle that come with it.  Many of you who are old enough to remember (and many who are not, but ride with me) when mainstream America tried to accept Hip-Hop culture, the art form would usually be displayed in the most cringe worthy way imaginable.  But in this book, the mob, the drugs, and everything in between and the outskirts of do not feel offensive or problematic at all.  I could be wrong.

Thus far in this Huntress book, the focus is placed on those who are profiting and supplying the drug to the streets, instead of criticizing those who succumb victim to the vice.  In the image above, we see the Huntress being the folk hero, running out a street punk from the block in front of a mother and a daughter, who not only feel empowered by seeing that there is someone who cares about the every day person, but maybe even more so by the fact that the vigilante who intervened in the day to day struggle was a woman, capable, strong, and fearless.  

With the Bertinelli family wiped out of existence as far as the mafia game is concerned, you have other tribes who want to fill the void.  One group that wants to incorporate the Wal-Mart model, by being the warehouse, the delivery service, and the seller, are the Colombian gang, who are not named, so I have to refer the them as the Colombian gang right now, thinking they can fill the void of the King of New York.  When the Huntress busts in on their little set up, she really gives them a scare.  She wants answers, but the only thing she can get out of these not ready for prime time crooks is their only plan - take out Tony the Gut, an Italian gang leader who assumed next in command after the Bertinelli gang were exterminated.    

I didn't mentioned anything about Helena's costume in the first blog post.  To be honest, I'm not over the moon about it, but I must say, whenever you get a close up of Helena in any incarnation of the character or costume, she has this "draw you in" intimidating factor, which I adore.  In this close up of Huntress, she looks great, but the costume as a whole is not very tactical and practical as my friend Mark would say.  

The cast of characters in this one are somewhat familiar but necessary for our protagonist.  Sal, the red head curly guy who was Helena's bodyguard turned trainer, plays the role of her confidant - almost like an Alfred if you will.  And I hope that you do.  Then there are two cops, O'Shea and Fiorello, who are written with some good dialogue, considering the space they had to operate.  Fiorello comes off as older, cynical, and seeming to have an ulterior motive against Huntress.  O'Shea appears younger, optimistic, hinting at a future partnership with Huntress, a Commissioner Gordon insider type thing.  Both cops are written as if they are from the "old neighborhood", who became police officers on the streets they ran as a children. 

The baddies, like the Colombian suppliers, Tony the Gut's crew, and an interesting character introduced in this book, Mandragora who is described as being old school.  Mandragora, or the demon, is an interesting character operating outside the realm of our Huntress Universe.  Based on what we see from issue 2, it is as if he appears out of no where, not really present during the Bertinelli run.  Tony the Gut, who thought he had it made in the shade, is intimidated by Mandragora and his shadowed, masked, gun holding friend in the background.  Mandragora, who quotes Shakespeare at will, explains that the mob in America isn't holding up the edicts of what the mob was originally set up for, which is to safeguard the people against outside influences, protection, greedy politicians, overbearing taxmen, and giving refuge to people who can't find work because of their nationality.  Could Madragor be of the supernatural?  We shall see.  

The story concludes with a boom-pow action scene with most of our major players.  Our two cops, O'Shea and Fiorello are there to stop criminal activity, potential or otherwise, Fat Tony and company are present to celebrate their assumed ascension after the death of the Bertinelli family, and members of the Colombian mob are in attendance as well.  Crossfire, mayhem, and Fat Tony sneaking out ensues.  After the smoke is clear, officer Fiorello was shot by a Colombian gang member who didn't realize he was a cop.  Huntress takes the lot of them out, not fatally, of course.  Fiorello, not thinking Huntress is a vigilante for the side of the Angels, instructs O'Shea to shoot Huntress point blank.  

After a long stare down between O'Shea and the Huntress, knowing in his heart of hearts, O'Shea declines from shooting a person who he deems as not being a threat.  I can see a partnership forging here.  

In the after math of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Helena Wayne Huntress is no more.  In her stead is this post-crisis character, Helena Bertinelli , daughter of a mafia boss, Guido Bertinelli.  This is a comic that aims straight for the throat and never lets go, and as a reader, you wouldn't want it any other way.

Let's get into the credits:

Writer: Joey Cavalieri  (Writer at DC since 1981 up to this point)
Pencils: Joe Staton (Who worked on the Helena Wayne Huntress up to cancellation)
Editor: Andrew Helfer
Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Inker: Dick Giordano (Legend.  Started at Charlton Comics back in 1956.  Resume through the roof.  Not new to Wright On Network, for he worked issues of Birds of Prey)
Letterer: Albert T. De Guzman (Worked at DC since 1976)
Colorist: Nansi Hoolahan)  (Credits go back to 1980)
Cover Date: April 1989
Released on February 14, 1989

The story opens up with a woman walking home by her lonesome while being stalked in the distance.  In this instance the threat is real.  No lasers, martians, space ships, anti-life equation - nothing of the such at all.  This is a horror that is happening right now to a fellow citizen as you read this blog.  Already, the creators are letting you know that this is a gritty book.  Although written in 1989, women being unsafe to walk alone is still prevalent today, unfortunately.  

From the jump, this book communicates that the atmosphere, gritty and grungy, will be the back drop for the titular character.  Opening panels focus on an assailant and his prey.  A woman, walking by her lonesome, perhaps after a long shift at work.  The perpetrator's knife is exposed without her even knowing that she is being followed.  Before the perp can taste victory, The Huntress is there to foil this low-level, but all too common, crook.  And the Huntress doesn't play nicely with these types, leaving him hanging from the rungs of a fire escape ladder in the alley he staked in, which is quite poetic.  

Huntress helps the woman to her feet, discovering her name is Helena Karabatsos.  This is quite interesting, considering this reiteration of the Huntress is named Helena Bertinelli.  The familiar name brings Helena back to her days in the old neighborhood.   

The sequence when Helena, who could be no older than 10 years old, visits Fat Angelo's  store, which is kind of like a local corner store in the neighborhood.  This is the most disturbing part of the book.  Here we hear Angelo reaming out his son, Tony, for cluing in his friend that Angelo, his father, has mob ties.  Apparently Angelo son's friends have disrespected Angelo a time or two.  The son,  thinking if he threw out his pop's mob ties, it would make the boys in the neighborhood respect him more.  

Fat Tony explains Omerta, which translate to "Silence".  While Tony is having this  conversation, a man with shades on is smiling at young Helena.  While this creepiness is going on, we can hear Angelo talk about keeping your mouth shut and never talking to the police.  This type of Code of Silence leads to a culture that breeds violence against women and toxic masculinity.

The shade wearing man that was smiling at Helena in the store was waiting outside for her by his car.  He tells Helena that he and her father go way back.  Offering her a ride home and all the candy she could imagine  He opens his car door for her to get in so he can take her home.  Only they don't go home.  They go back to his place.  See, he is a member of a rival family from the Bertinelli's and yes, because of the feuding, a little girl, Helena, had to pay by being sexually assaulted.  Although the act is not shown, the horror and torn clothes on Helena when she returns explain it all.  This is heart breaking.  And at such an early part of the book, it was hard for me to continue reading.  

While Helena was missing, Guido Bertinelli, Helena's father, was ragging with anger, grabbing his underlings and threatening to do something, but the sad part is, when Helena was found, chances are, the father did nothing.  Omerta.  This was perhaps an act that went unreported because he  kept it all in house.  A dispute among the mob families.  

Helena's answer to the problem was to send Helena away to be educated at a rich boarding school with a body guard in tow.  This body guard seems to really care for her safety, but Helena is trying to live a normal life without having to deal with this voyeuristic dude on the payroll, but knowing about comic book stuff, it seems as if this guy wants to do more than just follow Helena around campus.  
When Helena goes home on Holiday, her father is hosting a fancy dinner party, which is interrupted by a masked assailant who calls himself Omerta.  And I believe he is actually using a silencer assault gun.  This murderer kills everyone in the room save for Guido Bertinelli.  In all the mayhem, Omerta, didn't realize Helena was only playing possum.  Helena explains later that because she has been held up by a gunman before this event, she has always played scenarios in her head where she imagined what she would do if a mass shooting took place.  This is our hero's normal, folks!  

After the blood bath at the Bertinelli's dinner party, Helena pays a visit to the family's estate lawyer, learning that she's inherited a large sum of money, for Helena is the only heir left in her father's fortune.  In my interpretation of the scene, it reads as if Helena wasn't interested in her father's "dirty" money, which are my words, not Helena's. 

After leaving the meeting with the counselor, Helena walks to her car, where she is shot at multiple times.  She zig zags, remembering one of her father's associates mentioning the maneuver helps when having to dodge bullets.  What an upbringing!  

 She goes back to her boarding school to pack her things; her life at the prep school is not safe any longer.  As Helena is packing, a classmate of hers, I'm presuming a roommate, is trying to convince her to stay.  The unnamed classmate even throws in that she has trained Helena to Olympic gymnast status, which I absolutely love.  Now we know Helena is not just a random person, but is talented in a physical sense.  

Imagine, we are going to follow a character who is street smart, educated, and athletic.  Now when she is visited by the body guard dude who told her that if she didn't want a protector, she better learn to protect herself, we understand why he was thrown into the story.  Explaining he knew about the shoot out in broad daylight from earlier, and that she better move out to the countryside with him to train, Helena doesn't refuse.  Now this isn't the smoothest transition I've ever read into a character going into trainee/trainer sequence, but the book "goes so hard" I am willing to bypass the clumsiness.  

I'm all in.  Are you?  
Written by Ashford.

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