by Devin Grayson, Greg Land
(DC Comics, 2003)

In the alternate Earth-2 universe of the pre-Crisis DC Universe, the Huntress was named Helena Wayne, daughter of the late Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, who were slain by the Joker. She continued her father's crime-busting work, often partnering with the older, wiser Dick "Robin" Grayson.

In the current post-Crisis DCU, Grayson has graduated to the role of Nightwing, a more affable variation on the Batman's theme. The Huntress is now Helena Bertinelli, a teacher who was witness to her gangster father's murder and who targets gang-related activity in her crime-fighting efforts. In this world, Huntress operates outside of the Batman's approval and is generally not trusted by other members of the Bat Team.

It was inevitable that these two should team up at some point, and 1998's blandly titled Nightwing/Huntress miniseries proved a dramatic meeting between two heroes. The four-issue series was collected into a trade-sized graphic novel in 2003.

The murder of a call girl in a ritzy hotel is significant enough when the room turns out to be registered under the name of prominent Gotham gang member Frankie Black. The case takes an even more serious turn when the call girl is identified as an undercover vice cop, who was working without authorization or backup on a case against Black.

Nightwing and Huntress cross paths and, rather than duking it out like heroes so often do in the comic world, decide to work together. In this case, their cooperation includes a late-night clinch at Helena's home -- both characters have been portrayed, before and since this series, as fairly randy loners.

It's significant that Helena bares her private life to Dick, while he keeps their relationship on a pseudonym basis. It's also a treat to watch boxer-clad Dick handle a call -- on video phone, no less -- from a half-irritated, half-amused, all-jealous Barbara "Oracle" Gordon, whose own romance with Dick wouldn't be realized for another few years.

The case unfolds in excellent fashion, with several unexpected twists and turns en route. Although the actual killer becomes obvious to readers halfway through the story, it's fun watching the costumed heroes, police and gangsters try to figure out who it is 'til it all becomes clear at the end.

Devin Grayson clearly enjoyed writing the story, from forensics to foreplay, and he carries it off in laudable style. The interplay between Nightwing and Huntress -- and I'm talking about dialogue here, folks -- is handled well, accurately portraying an evolution through various levels of trust, distrust, affection and more.

Greg Land's artwork is equally impressive. Kinetic and spirited, his highly detailed work clearly broadcasts the characters' emotions and energy.

Huntress has, in my opinion, been ill-used in recent years, with writers playing too much with Batman's disapproval of her efforts. This book sets a tone of growing cooperation that should have been pursued more aggressively; as it is, Nightwing/Huntress stands as an excellent chapter in the two heroes' careers.

by Tom Knapp
21 January 2006

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