Thursday, March 09, 2006


Helena Bertinelli appeared briefly in Infinite Crisis #5; she's got two small panels on page two, and is mentioned by Alex Luthor during his info-dumping conversation with the Psycho-Pirate later in the book. (Where it's revealed that if the multiverse had continued to evolve, Helena B. would have been born on Earth-8. Thanks, Alex; many a night's sleep has been lost due to my inabilty to even formulate that question.)

Being an academic, my eyes automatically scanned down to the bottom of page two (perhaps I was looking for footnotes). Noting the end of the church scene, with some Earth-2 stuff following on page 3, I then prepared to actually read the page. However, my eye caught Huntress's close-in panel at the bottom, punctuated by her "Amen" word balloon. Though I was just skimming at that point, my first thought was: Damn you Geoff Johns! Damn you to hell, sir!

Let me explain why I flew off the handle like that. As a comics reader (or reader of any kind of fiction, I suppose), points of identification with characters are crucial, and one of my ways of identifying with (and understanding) Helena Bertinelli is through her complicated relationship to her Catholicism.

Here are two panels from Birds of Prey #72 that brought this all into focus for me:

(Just to fill you in, Helena and Vixen have infiltrated a church that has proven greatly attractive to young high schoolers, several of whom, however, have committed suicide while dressed up as their favorite superheroes.)

Now while I'd kill myself if I ever handled a crossbow, I was raised Catholic. Huntress' "I'm not too crazy about churches in general" line was a hook that linked me to the character; the "offends even me" coda subtly signalled that she still wrestles with her relationship to the religion in which she was brought up.

All I can say is, man, that Gail Simone sure knows how to write a comic book.

So, when my eye scanned down to the bottom of page two of IC #5 and fixed upon Huntress' "Amen" word balloon (it's the single word she speaks), I kind of lost it. It's not that I'm opposed to Huntress ever going to church, saying "amen," or even being reconciled with the Church. What I do oppose is having something central like this occur off panel--I presumed it had happened in the etherial netherworld between Birds of Prey and Infinite Crisis. The other possible explanation, that the horrific events occurring during the crisis had brought Helena fully back to the faith, just didn't feel right to me, either.

However, when I actually read the page, I inwardly retracted the harsh words that I had directed at Mr. Johns. For what Helena Bertinelli is actually saying "amen" to is not the blessing being intoned, but rather Blue Devil's call to action. ("[L]et's get the hell out of here. There's people that need help.") Contrary to my initial, rushed reading, Huntress' utterance of the word is entirely in character.

The close-up in the page's final panel doesn't capture the Huntress in a moment of religious reverence or devotion. Someone has finally said something that she agrees with whole-heartedly. Her eyes convey readiness and determination.

People, she seems to be saying, it's time.

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