Attack Of The Clones – Review Of Huntress #1

We’ve reached the end of the deluge of new #1’s from DC’s universal reboot. With the 52 all new, on-going titles established, DC is now releasing miniseries titles for characters whom they’d like to keep active in the universe but, for whatever reason, did not merit an on-going title. This week’s candidates include Huntress #1, a six issue run that IGN seems to think is set on Earth 2, but actually, according to DC will have events that will play into Birds of Prey (presumably in this universe). DC also released Penguin: Pain And Prejudice #1, which will outline the origins of The Penguin. On October 12, DC will release The Shade #1, which will have a 12 issue run. So, why did DC decide that these characters wouldn’t make the cut for an on-going series over the likes of some of the more marginal Wildstorm characters such as Voodoo or Grifter? The mind of Dan DiDio is a curious place indeed.

The new Huntress, written by Paul Levitz, former President of DC Comics, with pencils by Marcus To (Red Robin), is described on DC’s site as a 32 page book. I suppose it is, technically. To be more truthful, the story takes up 20 pages with the remaining pages taken up by ads and a preview of some series called Batman: Noël – which has been in the back of most of the DC books from the start of this relaunch, so it may as well be six blank pages at this point. But, hey, what about those actual 20 pages of story?

Back in June of this year, at the DC Retail Roadshow in New York City, a panel of DC muckity-mucks, which included John Rood, Bob Wayne, Vince Letterio, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, told retailers:

Another change DC is making is that they won’t be ‘writing for the trade’ anymore. Writers have been told to write the story they want to write and not worry about the trade collecting. If they can tell a well-paced story in 4 issues, they’ve been told not to pad it to make it 6 issues. Editorial can worry about how it’s going to be collected. Going forward, books will be trade-collected depending on how the story fits. If a book has a 4-issue arc followed by a 3 issue arc, the trade will collect both. If it’s 2 4-issue arcs or 3 2-issue stories, those will get collected. As a side note, DC is looking into a new trade dress to represent the New 52 and a better spine design to call out information for fans.

Well, although some of the new DC titles seem to be going the route of more self contained stories, Huntress is going to be a six issue arc. That seems oddly…familiar. And, Levitz’s story is starting off fairly decompressed. Helena Bertinelli has arrived in Naples to investigate illegal shipments – human trafficking, actually, that have been coming into Gotham from Italy. The story unfolds slowly, using minimal exposition and relying on To’s pencil work to convey broader meaning through cinematic visuals. Characterization is developed through the players’ actions and dialogue. The downside to decompressed storytelling can be the pace at which the story is told. I don’t know where this story is going yet, but I have to ask – does it really need six issues to get there? Right now, I like the book well enough that I’m going keep buying it to find out.

Otherwise, my only quibble with this book is, while To’s landscapes and action sequences are well executed and dramatic:

Eat hot knee, scumbag!

the artistic execution of individual characters shows little variation, leading the story to look as though it is peopled with a group of female clones and a group of male clones:

Are you my mommy?

This is Larry, Darryl and my other brother, Darryl.

It’s not something that is a problem merely limited to To. Plenty of other, more well known artists have a similar issue in which their stylized portrayals of characters lead to a cloning effect that, for me, pretty as the art is to look at, kind of drags me out of the story. J. Scott Campbell‘s Danger Girl characters look like his Little Mermaid, which in turn looks like his Sookie Stackhouse, Tara or Jessica (I mean, I know the South is kinda inbred, but seriously…). Similar arguments can be made for Steve Dillon or Mark Bagley. So, To is in good company, but it may be something he might want to work on. Good storytelling in comic books moves closer to being “great” when you can at least tell the characters apart.

Still, I’m happy to have Huntress back in the DCU and, hopefully, this miniseries will do well enough that we’ll see her in her own on-going book, or at least back as part of Birds Of Prey. She’s the kind of strong, female character that I want to see in my pulls – strong, confident and kicking ass. I want to see her keep it up and stick around.