After taking us through Helena Bertinelli’s rather brutal origin story in issues #1-6 of her solo series, Joey Cavalieri, Joe Staton, and Bob Smith had the task of following that up with a storyline that kept the reader interested. Personally, I think this is actually harder than an initial arc, much like the second season of a television series can be tougher to do than the first. With that first arc, especially if it’s an origin story, there’s pressure but there’s also the excitement of getting your shot. With the second arc, you’re answering the question “Where are we going to go from here?”
The answer to that is further into territory that was being explored by characters like The Punisher. Building off of the death of her father and the revelation of his secret vault, this storyline centers partially around the man’s ledger of all of his business dealings. The cop that Huntress has been sort of working with (in one of those “I don’t know if I should trust you but you seem to be helping me” deals) has a copy of the ledger, but it’s written completely in code. So he gives it to a jailed serial killer nicknamed Bookworm in the hopes that he can be Hannibal Lecter to his Clarice and crack the code. This leads to Bookworm arranging for his escape from jail and teaming up with another bad guy he calls “Picture Man” to kill off people associated with the senior Bertinelli. Meanwhile, a street gang has hijacked a truck full of plutonium and has kidnapped a teenage science whiz because they want to blow up part of NYC with a nuclear bomb.
I wasn’t being flip when I said this sounds like a Punisher story arc. I honestly could have done without the street gang with a nuke aspect because it was a little far-fetched, especially considering that Huntress is a street-level vigilante and Cavalieri could have just come up with a running subplot of gang activity that she’s constantly dealing with. Having a bunch of street hoods with UZIs talk about becoming a “nuclear power” strains the suspension of disbelief.
But the Bookworm storyline was pretty cool. Staton draws this guy as an odd-looking, mousey type of person who is shorter than everyone else and has huge glasses. Cavalieri writes him as a puzzle-obsessed criminal whose Rube Goldberg-like deathtrap at the story’s end (a literal shooting gallery where he’ll be able to capture the moments of death on camera) is exactly in line with his character. Staton’s art, in fact, is still really solid in these comics. It’s not my favorite–that would be some of the work I saw him do back in the 1970s as well as his Green Lantern work crica Crisis on Infinite Earths–but it’s a huge improvement over what we had in the Millennium event from a couple of years prior. Again, I think that it’s the whole of the art team of strong pencils, inks, and colors. They really do make it look like a gritty street crime book and I stand by my assertion that this would have made a heck of a syndicated action show in the early 1990s.
The next issue is a standalone story, so I’ll probably be reviewing that on its own. Then, I’ll keep going arc by arc.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
*As with last time, I’m waiting to read through the entire series before making a final judgment call.