In this first issue of a four-issue mini-series, Helena has arrived in Italy to hunt down (and stop) a shipment of contraband headed for Gotham. Instead of just drugs and guns, however, she finds women being trafficked as well, which only raises the stakes as far as Helena is concerned. Meanwhile, the guy behind it all is killing off his people left, right, and center. It’ll be a shock if anyone is left standing by the time Helena gets there.
The writing by Paul Levitz is nice overall, but feels a bit inconsistent or perhaps rushed. Helena is well characterized throughout and her voice feels accurate -- perhaps not surprisingly since Levitz helped to create the character -- but the plot is a bit tired. The story also suffers by beginning with a plotline too similar to Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner’s Question/Huntress backup feature from “Detective Comics” last year. Any time you have to be compared with Greg Rucka is a tough thing, because few write comics at his level; what felt well-considered there, feels a bit tacked on here. I suppose the women are there to humanize the story, so Helena is not just after drugs and guns. While noble, it feels disconnected and cold. It didn’t work for me and instead felt cliché. It’s not that the concept can’t be mined yet again, but the execution felt sloppy.
Marcus To and John Dell do nice work together, though it’s a bit too inconsistent, much like the writing. To's Helena is both beautiful and powerful, without ever feeling objectified (despite having one fight in a babydoll nightgown). That respect for the character is hugely appreciated. To also pays excellent attention to Helena’s clothes, which are fantastically fashion forward. Most significant, however, is the fact that To’s action sequences are exceptional. Under To, Helena feels like the badass that she is. Yet the scenes feel reasonably realistic in a well-considered way, and the storytelling is easy to follow yet completely compelling.
Unfortunately, many of the non-Helena characters look the same, and because there are so many (some of them hugely inconsequential cannon fodder) I had trouble telling them apart and figuring out if they had any significance or not. Some of the acting was very good, but a few spots seemed off, such as Helena’s conversation with the reporters. Additionally, though To tries his best to make the book “feel” like Italy with some lovely establishing shots, for the most part it feels like it could be taking place anywhere…well, anywhere except perhaps Gotham. That hurts the book a bit. Andrew Dalhouse’s colors are solid throughout, though I liked the light, almost airy, quality they had at the beginning of the book -- a technique that would not work well for Gotham but which felt like a nice fit here.
Overall this is a the beginning of a solid mini-series with an underused character full of potential. It’s better than most of the new DCU 52 books I read. It makes one wish that this book was going to keep going instead of being relegated to a mini-series. Regardless, if you like strong well-rounded female characters, support this book so we can see more like it.