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Batman/The Huntress: Cry For Blood

The Huntress is one of DC's little-used characters. Sure she was a JLA-er for all of five minutes, and she is a member of the ever-expanding Bat-Family, but little has been done with the character since her post-Crisis debut (where she got a complete continuity overhaul, thankfully. Despite what the WB might have you think, Huntress is not the daughter of Batman. Anymore.)

She's mostly used as a verbal punching bag for Batman, who dislikes her moral ambiguity when it comes to killing criminals, and she did have a romantic fling with Nightwing. Once in a while, she even pops up in Birds of Prey . Despite all these appearances, Huntress doesn't have her own book, and the reason for that is Greg Rucka never wrote her before.

In Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood, Greg Rucka treats us to a great story about the Gotham City mafia and manages to re-tell and beef-up Huntress's origin story. There are times when I forget that Rucka came to comics from writing the Atticus Kodiak mystery novels, meaning the man knows how to tell a damn good crime drama.

A body belonging to a son of the Panessa crime family has been pulled out of the Gotham River with a cleanly place crossbow bolt lodged in its chest. When Commissioner Gordon (this story is set before the events of Batman: Officer Down) calls Batman in to investigate, the Dark Knight Detective sets his sights on the only unstable vigilante with a crossbow he knows: Huntress.

But this is not a Batman story; he's there because his name on the book will help sell it and his disapproval of Huntress is a constant reminder that she is the redheaded stepchild in the Bat-Family.

Besides Batman suspecting her, the Panessa family has put a hit out on the Huntress, not knowing that the Huntress is actually their cousin, Helena Bertinelli: a young girl who was the only survivor of a coup in the Five Families of Gotham, where the Bertinelli crime family was destroyed. And let's not forget the G.C.P.D. is on her trail too.

When another body shows up with a bolt in it, Batman tries to take the Huntress in and in the ensuing scuffle; she gets away, only to be knocked out and kidnapped by The Question, another underused DC character. Huntress has to find a way to clear her name and find out who is framing her and in doing so, she may find out why she was the one to survive the Bertinelli massacre.

This book should be called Huntress: Year One, as Rucka really fleshes out the character's origins and motivations. Her time spent in Italy being trained by Cosa Nostra assassins is exceptionally well-written. In fact, Rucka shines most when he is writing about the intricate dealings of the Crime Families of Gotham and the history they have with the town. Some scenes smack of The Godfather (the wedding of a mafia daughter for instance), but Rucka never makes it sounds old or plagiarized.

And let's give a round of applause to the man for dredging up one hell of an obscure character with The Question (Vic Sage when not wearing his faceless…um, face), who, unlike in Frank Miller's awful The Dark Knight Strikes Again, actually has a role to play in helping Huntress clear her name. We never find out why he is helping Huntress, but you don't really care as the guy is always spouting Zen wisdom to confuse the reader and help Helena (Fanboy Planet Zen Wisdom = Jack Handy's Deep Thoughts).

The art on this book is good, better than most of the Bat-Family titles running currently (with the exception of Jim Lee's "Hush" run and Birds of Prey). Rick Burchett has a style that seems classic and appears heavily influenced by Kirby at times, but still holds a unique touch that is his own. Once again, this book really reminds me of Batman: Year One, even in the art department because of the gritty quality possessed by some of the crime family scenes.

All around, this is a great book, especially for those like me who love Batman the character and his cast of fellow vigilantes, but find it hard to get into any of the continuity-heavy Bat-Titles. Cry For Blood gives you everything you need to know about Huntress to understand her motivations, her actions, and her desire for vengeance: for her omerta. And it's not a back-breaker at $12.95 for 137 pages of good crime drama.

So, since it is the season to give, give that friend who watches The Sopranos and loved Adam West in Batman as a kid a copy of this book. It's the best of both worlds (of course, you don't get much worse than Adam "Good thing I packed my Bat-Shark Repellant!" West).

Batman Huntress: Cry for Blood

Robert Sparling

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