Ten years ago, DC Comics rebooted their entire multiverse with a new continuity that was meant to be accessible to new readers. This initiative became known as the New 52, which saw every DC character get a new origin and a new story direction. On Oct. 5, 2011, DC brought back a beloved character thought forever lost to Crisis on Infinite Earths. The original Helena Wayne Huntress returned in the miniseries Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads by Paul Levitz and Marcus To.
While the return of the Earth-2 Huntress was a welcome return, fans of the character quickly learned she wasn’t the classic Helena Wayne that once fought alongside the Justice Society of America. She was a whole new incarnation that combined the traits of both the classic Huntress and the post-Crisis Helena Bertinelli Huntress.
HUNTRESS IN THE NEW MULTIVERSE
Helena Wayne made her debut in 1977 in both DC Super-Stars #17 and All-Star Comics #69, both written by Paul Levitz with art from Joe Staton. While All-Star Comics #69 is considered her first appearance, it is actually DC Super-Stars #17 where she gets a proper introduction. Originally born on Earth-2 to the Golden Age versions of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, Helena largely enjoyed a happy childhood. This was facilitated by the marriage of her parents who gave up their lifestyles as Batman and Catwoman to provide Helena with a normal upbringing.
As a young adult, Helena pursued a law degree at Harvard University and became a junior partner at the Cranston, Grayson and Wayne law firm by age 21. It was also the law firm where her father’s ward, Dick Grayson, was a partner. Prior to her becoming a lawyer, however, Helena experienced a personal tragedy a few years prior.
When Helena was 19 years old, her mother was blackmailed into committing one last crime as Catwoman by a former henchman, which resulted in her death. This proved to be a traumatic experience for Helena as she happened to be close to her mother. Since her father had given up being Batman, Helena picked up the family trade to avenge her mother’s death as the Huntress. After resolving her mother’s murder, Helena continued to operate silently in Gotham as the Huntress, eventually joining the Justice Society of America. Sometime after joining, her father was killed and once again found herself avenging his death.
In the New 52, Helena was still the Earth-2 daughter of Bruce and Selina. Unlike their original counterparts, they never stopped being Batman and Catwoman this time. As such, they raised Helena to be a crimefighter from the moment she was born and she eventually fought alongside them as their Robin.
After Apokolips invaded Earth-2, both of her parents were killed in action and Helena fell through a portal alongside Kara Zor-L to Earth-0. She was 16 years old when she got stranded on Earth-0, which forced her to take up a new identity. In a world where her parents weren’t married and her father already had four Robins, she decided not to draw attention to herself. She burned her Robin costume and took up a new identity as the Huntress by age 17.
HUNTRESS GETS MEAN
Another major change Helena Wayne experienced during the New 52 was how she operated as the Huntress. In the previous continuity, Helena operated as a meticulous detective and functioned as the primary protector of Gotham alongside Power Girl and the Justice Society. She fought some of her parents’ villains like the Joker and Lionmane, as well as Justice Society villains like Solomon Grundy and the Thinker. She also acquired a rogues gallery of her own in the form of the Crime Lord, the Earthworm, the Nightingale, Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether.
Despite the types of villains Helena encountered, she managed to maintain a strong moral compass. She was not easily swayed by emotions except in life-threatening situations. When it came to killing, Helena for the most part adhered to a strict “no killing rule”. She rarely considered killing, except as a last-ditch resort.
In the New 52, Helena was still depicted as a meticulous detective, most notably in the Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads miniseries. However, unlike her previous counterpart, she was depicted as more morally grey like the Earth-0 Catwoman. She also didn’t feel as strongly about killing as her original counterpart did. She actively murdered the leaders of a sex trafficking ring in the Huntress miniseries and was known to fatally injure criminals in a similar fashion to the post-Crisis Helena Bertinelli. It wasn’t until she returned to Earth-2 that Helena adopted the “no killing rule”.
Another thing that differed with the New 52 was that Helena operated as the Huntress for five years on Earth-0 before returning to Earth-2. While on Earth-0, she did not tend to stay in any particular place for very long and largely avoided Gotham. At best, she appeared once in Gotham to assist Batgirl and Black Canary in their fight against Knightfall in Gail Simone’s and Fernando Pasarin’s Batgirl: Deadline storyline. For the most part, Helena traveled the world with Kara and primarily focused on dismantling sex trafficking rings and helping abused women. She never pursued a career outside of being the Huntress.
One thing that stayed consistent between the New 52 and the previous continuity is the relationships that are most important to Helena Wayne. Those relationships include Batman and Catwoman, Power Girl, Dick Grayson and the Justice Society heroes. The only thing that changed was how these relationships were formed in the New 52 canon.
Helena’s relationship with her parents remained relatively unchanged between past and present as they had a healthy relationship. The only thing that differed was Helena was more noticeably closer to her mother than her father in the New 52 continuity. As Robin, she felt more confident working alongside her mother whereas she felt she had to prove herself to her father. In the previous continuity, Helena only wanted to uphold their legacy as the Huntress but not live in their shadow.
The most notable difference between the New 52 and previous continuity was the way Helena met the Earth-0 versions of her parents. In the previous continuity — specifically in Batman Family #17 — she met the Earth-1 version of her father to seek his advice on becoming a better crimefighter. In that same story, she also met the Earth-1 version of her mother, but under less desirable circumstances. She ended up stopping her Earth-1 mother from committing a crime. In the New 52, Helena primarily stole money from the Earth-0 version of her father to support herself and Kara and only sought his help when Kara got infected with a mysterious illness. She never met the Earth-0 version of her mother.
Helena’s relationship with Kara was another relationship that was relatively unchanged between past and present. The only thing that differs is how they met and how close they were. In the previous continuity, Kara and Helena met as Huntress and Power Girl after the latter joined the Justice Society of America. They became best friends and occasionally teamed up. In the New 52, they met as Robin and Supergirl and became best friends while they were still living on Earth-2. When they got stranded on Earth-0, they lived together with hints that Helena may have been romantically interested in Kara.
The biggest relationship changes were with both Dick Grayson and the Justice Society heroes. Unlike the previous Earth-2 continuity, the New 52 version of Dick was never Robin or Bruce’s ward. He was just a random dude who decided to become the next Batman after a second battle with Apokolips destroyed Earth-2. He met Helena sometime after she returned to Earth-2 — though it was never explained why she let Dick take over her father’s mantle.
Similarly, the way Helena joined the Justice Society heroes after she returned to Earth-2 was different. Starting with the fact the Earth-2 heroes didn’t call themselves the Justice Society, Helena only joined the group in response to Apokolips destroying Earth-2. She similarly continued to work with them during the rebuilding of Earth-2.
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