So we finally get Batman. I’m sure that one of the reasons that this ongoing series existed in the first place was because of the pre-Crisis Helena Wayne character and the idea that comic fans who knew of her would see the connection to Batman and that would sell the book. In fact, I’m surprised that considering the book began being published in 1989 that we didn’t get a Batman appearance around the time of the movie.
Anyway, here he is now in a three-part storyline titled “Days of Rage” that brings Batman to New York because he is chasing a criminal boss named Rage–who kind of has this “if the Beyonder was a televangelist” look about him–who has gone from Gotham back to New York to set things right among two warring gangs. The gang war, by the way, is one that had been brewing for a couple of issues, especially during the previous issues where the mafia was making a play for the waterfront. The catalyst for this storyline’s gang war is a kid named James–he is a genius kid who had been kidnapped by a gang and forced to make a nuclear device several issues ago and his family had been killed for it. James is taking his revenge out on these gangs by planting IEDs in gang territory. The Daggers (gang one) think The Skulls (gang two) are behind it–and vice-versa–and there’s a lot of fighting.
Rage swoops in, reminds them of the gang from which they came, and gets them under that banner. Then, it’s up to Huntress to deal with it. Batman shows up, immediately disagrees with everything she does, but reluctantly helps. In the end, Helena decides to more or less leave her life as Huntress behind, “adopting” James and taking him away from New York City.
Like I said, I wonder what would have happened if Batman had shown up earlier in the series; maybe the book would have gone beyond just its 19 issues. But it seems like Cavalieri wanted to separate the character of the Huntress from that legacy–a change of name, motivation, and setting were key to that. And this particular story is pretty by-the-numbers as far as Batman guest spots go–Batman doesn’t necessarily approve of what Huntress is doing and the team-up is more or less reluctant. This does wind up being par for the course as far as Bruce and Helena’s relationship goes from here on out, although that is more clearly defined and Huntress becomes a fully realized character under other writers such as Chuck Dixon.
The art is probably the best thing about this storyline and this series. It is, yes, very much of its time and I stand by my assertion that this could be a syndicated series from the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it works very well. The grittiness of the ink and coloring complements Staton’s pencils, which continue to be some of the best of this period.
I’m still holding off total judgment on this series, though, because there’s actually one more issue–Cavalieri and Staton would get the chance to tie up loose ends in the Justice League International Special #2 a few months after issue #19. That’s where I’m going next.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?