Here’s another caped superheroine who stands her own against the guys. This one: Helena Bertinelli, the purple-clad vigilante Huntress. She may not be as well-known as Wonder Woman or Batgirl, but she’s made her mark…usually on her victims! Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads finds Helena outside of her usual Gotham City haunts. As she disembarks a plane in Italy, she smiles and thinks about what activities she‘ll do, and namely how many bodies she’ll leave behind.Helena has come to Italy with a purpose. A “tip” (it’s not explained where the tip came from) led her to knocking out some thugs in a Gotham shipping yard and opening container 8894. Surely she expects weapons or drugs or some other black market goodie. Instead, she finds traumatized women. She has stumbled onto an international sex trafficking ring, and sets her sights on finding the criminals responsible.Helena isn’t alone in her quest. She has local allies in the form of reporters Alessandro and Christina. Her increasingly casual chats with the reporters act as transitions between scenes. It works as one way of doing the detective side of crime fighting and putting all the clues and information together, but it’s also an effective way to indicate a passage of time without having to jump forward constantly.99 percent of the dialogue is Italian, so of course it’s presented in English written inside brackets. The brackets got a little distracting. It should have been indicated that Helena was fluent in Italian and left at that. Also the lettering for the narration changes partway through the book from lowercase to a larger font in capital letters, so that was slightly off-putting, but not a big deal.There’s these neat little character-defining moments, like when Helena scares off some growling dogs with a stare, and admits she’s a cat person. Another time, she’s snooping in someone’s office and snacks on a pastry that was left on the desk, loving how perfect Italian pastries are, even when stale. I love this one panel; how she carelessly holds a man at arrow-point while checking her nails. It’s a bold move, and funny given she’s wearing gloves. She comes across as a well-mannered lady exploring the Italian vistas at one point, then an unabashedly violent crime fighter the next.This is one of those cases where the cover artwork doesn’t surpass the illustrations inside. The cover depicts Huntress vaulting over a clothesline, presumably in Italy. Her body is twisted in an uncomfortable way and her too-big boobs are pointed to the side. Her legs are way too beefy in proportion with her body.But the artwork inside by Marcus To and inker John Dell is gorgeous. Immediately we are catapulted into the beautiful country of Italy, shown in lavish detail, muted pastel skies broken up by Huntress’s signature purple, even when she’s visiting the country as the fabulous sunglasses-wearing Helena. Half the scenes are presented in warm watercolors while the other half are in murky darkness. Helena is beautifully proportioned. I’ve seen some amazing artwork in comics, but the women are usually shown with pencil-thin waists. Not believable on what should be a somewhat buff crime fighter. Kudos to Marcus To for drawing Helena in such a way!Character-wise, Helena is very resourceful, and sports a Batman-like utility belt. Although she is more violent than most heroes (a true vigilante), there’s not enough of her heroine side to make her stand out. True, she has some interesting tricks, like injecting foes with a sleeping serum instead of knocking them unconscious, but for the most part her fighting and sleuthing scenes could have been replaced by a number of other characters and it wouldn’t have made a difference. She needs her own style, and I’m not talking fashion.It would be remiss not to mention the baddies in this volume. There’s a scene where one of the organizers of the sex trafficking, the mobster/political type Chairman, wants to use an enemy’s captured daughter to “restore his youth,” which is as bad as it sounds. The bad guys are definite sleaze balls. Another top dog protected by Italy‘s Polizia, Moretti, finishes with one of the girls, has trouble pronouncing her name, and says, “No matter. They’ll give you a name that’s easier to remember when we turn you out.” These aren’t mustache-twirling villains, or megalomaniacs threatening the safety of the world. These men treat women as cargo, and that’s enough reason to hate them. Sex trafficking is alive and well in our world, so this story resonates.The volume ends as Helena makes her way out of Italy, being chased by the authorities on the airport tarmac, and loving every second of it. Just as she’s hatching a scheme to sneak on a plane, Kara, aka Power Girl, shows up to fly Helena out of trouble. This last, dashing scene was a highlight and very fun, but the end with Kara’s sudden appearance sucked. It was a way of leading into the next Worlds Finest volume featuring Kara and Helena, which is something I’ll pick up, but the transition between the volumes could have been a lot smoother.Crossbow at the Crossroads is action-packed and beautiful to look at. Helena is a fierce warrior, but takes time to enjoy the fabulous Italian cuisine. It’s a badass travelogue…”How to see the Sights and Smash Skulls, with your host Helena!” Although the characters and subject matter were compelling, I felt it needed a twist. I would have liked to see Helena have a personal interest in the sex trafficking case, instead of jumping into the plot at random, but maybe that’s the Hollywood side of my brain talking.Art: 9/10Story: 7/10Overall: 8/10
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