The Hunted Huntress

August 29, 2003

Batman: Gotham Knights #38-40: Knight Moves 1-3

By Avi Green

Gotham Knights was launched in early 2000 as a replacement for the earlier Batman: Shadow of the Bat, another series that I hadn’t read (but which I spoke about towards the end of this cancelled series list here), and so I have no idea if it was meant to serve the same purpose as this series does, which is to focus on the Dark Knight’s relationships with his fellow crimefighters in Gotham and the surrounding area. Whatever, since its launching, this has been one of the best of the Batbooks, with plenty of great character drama and focus to it, and, as an added bonus, it’s got Black and White Batman backup stories written by various writers and artists, all 8 pages in length, that are also very facinating, surely due to the concept of using no color.

Let’s get on to the story in focus now.

Batman: Gotham Knights #38
Knight Moves Part 1: The Queen is Dead
Writer: Scott Beatty
Penciler: Roger Robinson
Inker: John Floyd

Before I get onto this fully, let me just offer up a historical tidbit or two about the Huntress: When the character first appeared in the pre-Crisis era, she was first depicted as the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman, and her name was Helena Wayne. During the early 1980’s, she had a backup feature in Wonder Woman Vol. 1, where she appeared several times, a few times in Infinity Inc, and also made a few appearances in Justice League of America, including the first issue I read from 1983 (#220, Vol. 1) which gave the pre-Crisis revelation about the Black Canary we know today being the daughter of the Golden Age BC, who’d been advanced in age and had memory implants from her mother injected into her own mind. (That particular premise that appeared in that issue has today been largely revised, in which BC was told to have grown up normally, and took up the mantlepiece from her mother when she was 19 years old.) But then, at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, she, along with the Earth-2 Robin, was killed off, and until this day, nobody, save perhaps the Psycho Pirate number 2/John Hammond, the only one who survived the Crisis with his memories of the previous era intact, remembers her.

3 years after the Crisis occurred, the Huntress we know today, Helena Bertinelli, came along. She was the daughter of a mafia couple killed in an attack by a rival gang, who grew up bitter at the traumas she’d been through, and as a day job, she’s a high school teacher in Gotham. While she hasn’t killed any criminals to date, her own methods of crimefighting tend to be much more extreme than some of Gotham’s other crimefighters, which tends to put her at odds with Batman, if anyone. And, unlike her pre-Crisis predecessor, she can much nastier in battle when it comes to dealing with the scum of Gotham.

In this story, she’s been kidnapped and held hostage by Gotham rogues’ gallery member Checkmate, alias David Said, an international villain who enjoys playing chess, and likening his many moves as a criminal to the ones taken on the chessboard. He’s trying of course to bring down the Caped Crusader, and now that he knows Helena’s secret ID, he’s obviously got a weapon to use against her.

Aiding him in his manipulations of the Huntress are rogues’ gallery members Scarecrow/Dr. Jonathan Crane and the Mad Hatter, experts alike in hypnotism and fear, and they certainly do quite a job in drugging her in order to experiment on what Scarecrow describes as being “daddy’s girl”. Indeed, even the post-Crisis Huntress has tried to be something like a daughter figure to the Dark Knight, and this also reminds me, that at the beginning of the issue, she’s shown having a halucination of Robin calling her out to fight the baddies together, in a scene that’s meant to be reminicient of how the Earth-2 Robin and Huntress were sometimes said to have been almost like step-siblings together, having been raised under the same roof together, of course.

Back at the Wayne manor, Bruce and butler Alfred Pennyworth are playing their own game of chess, and the latter’s health isn’t well, unfortunately. And over in Bludhaven, a police detective gives Nightwing some pictures of him and Huntress, who he once had an affair with, making out together (in costume, of course, so no secret ID’s are exposed here, luckily). There’s a flashback scene of them in a tryst together from years before too. The scenes are very well handled, Beatty being quite the talented dramatist he is, and Robinson does excellent work in drawing them too.

As for Scarecrow and Mad Hatter, having completed their work, are then offered another job by Checkmate, and subsequently take off in a helicopter. While as for Huntress, she manages to outsmart Checkmate and the sentry armed with an electric cattle-prod standing behind her, and, not wanting, at least not then, to take up his offer of having some kind of immunity given to her as a vigilante, jumps out the window. Yes, really.

Yikes. Is that a long distance ahead, and what risks she can take to evade her worst enemies.

I’ll get to the rest after I’ve covered this B&W story right here below.

Black and White Batman: This Side Up
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Penciler: John Bolton

The concept of storytelling without color is an interesting idea that gets done a great service in some of these that are told here. We see what appears to be Batman and Catwoman either tied up or bracing themselves on some ropes tied to the ceiling of a gas station garage, and the owner of the place has doused it with gasoline, and goes to sell people at the door’s windowlet cigarettes while complaining about being held up from his intention to blow Bat and Cat to smithereens. He then accidentally lights a lighter, and the place turned smoking. But Bat and Cat, as it turns out, are really just inflatable dolls that he’s bought, and so then, he sets around, after grumbling some more, to filling them with air again. And, it’s to be guessed, he’s apparently a ventriloquist or something like that, and is providing the voices for them.

An interesting story about how some loonies in society take out their psychotic pleasures on dummy versions of those they despise so much.

Batman: Gotham Knights #39
Knight Moves Part 2: Castling
Writer: Scott Beatty
Penciler: Roger Robinson
Inker: John Floyd

Before I get to the next scenario, let me comment on that cover by Brian Bolland, which shows Batman fleeing from the building in which Huntress was being held, carrying her while she herself is wrapped in an American Flag like a fallen patriot. Now that’s quite a remarkable scene there, and it also outdoes the ludicrous covers for Captain America’s Marvel Knights series by 1000-0.

We pick up from last issue, and it’s amazing as to how Huntress can take such a risk…and live to tell the tale: she comes by a flagpole on the building, and with the help of a Batarang she’s got hidden in her clothes, manages to grab hold of it. She almost falls again after it rips, but, luck plays its hand again, and she’s able to hold onto something like a strap from the pole, and reach the building roof safely. Meanwhile, Scarecrow and Mad Hatter fly away in a helicopter.

Meanwhile, back in the Batcave, Bruce and Robin/Timothy Drake are having a discussion about Bat-technology and Bruce also mentions as to how he put some tracking devices in a lot of their Batarangs recently. Hey, now there’s clever idea, and it’s good to see the Bat-factory chugging along as usual with all sorts of useful gimmicks.

Back at Checkmate’s building, Huntress overpowers a nurse who’s armed with a poison dart gun or something like that, and trades clothing with her (since she was wearing a possible straitjacket, you know what that could mean, eh?), and then makes her escape from the institution, although Checkmate’s shady agents are watching, hoping that this will lead them to the Bat, and then to “checkmate” the Dark Knight, who represents the King in this battle of wits, and Helena herself is designated as the Queen. And the henchmen of Said who go searching for the two of them are termed as the pawns.

As for Helena herself, she goes back to her apartment and speaks with an investigative pal of hers, Vic, who wears an old-fashioned fedora, to tell him what she’s been through with Said’s gang. The plan she’s got? She’s going to give them “what they want.” More on which anon. She then prepares to get out of the house.

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are heading out on the Batcycle to look for any of those traceable Batarangs that are littered all over Gotham, and accidentally knock over Helena as she’s probably trying to lead the crooks off course. Bad part? Little do Batman and Robin realize it, but in rescuing her and bringing her to the Batcave, they’ve set a trail for Checkmate’s gang to follow. More on which anon too after the next…

Black and White Batman: Sunrise
Writer: Alex Garland
Penciler: Sean Philips

An old lady sits at the window of her apartment early one morning as the sun rises over Gotham City. Knowing how old she is, she very much wants to photograph the beautiful sunrise before it’s too late in life. So she takes a camera and climbs up to the rooftop to do some photography.

But, when she gets there, who does she meet on the roof? None other than the Caped Crusader, of course. He’s hurt his arm due to a minor fall he sustained while trying to burst in on some thugs robbing an office building nearby, but was knocked out by the crooks, and hurt his arm while trying to sustain himself.

They have a little discussion, in which they find that they share a bit of reluctance on both sides, and then, the old lady takes a picture of them both on the rooftop, and returns to her apartment.

What impresses me most here is the everyday manner in which it’s done, just another typical day in the life of Batman, and how he relates to the everyday people in Gotham who he’s sworn to protect from evil. It’s a very pleasant little viginette from his everyday life. It’s perfect. And it’s by far the best of the backup stories featured along with this story arc.

Batman: Gotham Knights #40
Knight Moves Part 3: Checkmate
Writer: Scott Beatty
Penciler: Roger Robinson
Inker: John Floyd

Batman’s taken Huntress back to the Batcave (or, if I’m right, one of his HQ’s anyway), and, in doing so, has enabled Checkmate’s army of pawns to follow.

They don’t find it easy of course, and one gets “taken off the board”, after he accidentally opens fire within a metallic tunnel leading to the Batcave, at a squeaking rat, no less.

As for poor Alfred, as we can see, his health is not in good condition, and he becomes even more troubled while trying to keep an eye on Batman and Huntress on the mansion’s monitoring systems.

As for Huntress, she’s already gotten herself another costume to replace the one she left behind at Checkmate’s headquarters downtown, and lo and behold, it’s more or less the one she’ll be wearing in Birds of Prey now, currently written by Gail Simone. And hey, it is a pretty sexy looking one at that.

They decide to go ahead with Helena’s plan to “give Said what he wants”, by becoming a de-facto agent for him around Gotham. They wreck the HQ, and, taking an infiltrating guard whom they’ve gassed with memory loss gas, make their getaway from the cave. Helena goes back to Said’s own HQ downtown and pretends that Batman took her hostage, and pretends to be willing to become his agent.

It’s a pretty good story overall, that gives Helena an adversary of her own, given that he now knows her secret ID and may try to use it to manipulate her, albeit for now, it looks like Huntress is going to be a regular in Birds of Prey. I’m looking forward to seeing her there if I can.

Until then, however, I certainly hope that Alfred will get over his illness, as he certainly doesn’t seem to be doing well. That too is a part that’ll have to be continued.

Black and White Batman: Neighborhood
Writer: Robert Rodi
Penciler: John Proctor
Inker: John Floyd

A hoodlum/burglar moves into an apartment on 241 Pearl Court Terrace in Gotham City. He thinks it’s a safe place to reside, except that…one of the other residents of the building, he suspects, is the Dark Knight. And this does not please him at all.

At one point, Batman does indeed come by the apartment. The hoodlum thinks he’s been able to evade him. Or has he?

After a nightmare in which he dreams that the Dark Knight is coming to get him, he gets even angrier. Finally, in all his foolishness, he goes and does in the neighbor he thinks is really Batman by slamming him to death with a coffee pot…and incurs the wrath of the real Caped Crusader.

“241 Pearl Court Terrace. You’d think you’d be safe here,” he thinks to himself. “You’d think.” To which I’d reply, “Not with people like you around, that’s for sure.”

Overall, it’s a pretty good study of how a small time thug cowers at mere suspicion…and how his subsequent actions end up putting him in the sights of the real thing. Another facinating short story in B&W.

And with that, we end this review.

Copyright 2003 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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