I enjoyed this reading a lot. As I mentioned before, I read it in high school, but didn’t remember too much about it. It sent me off on a lot of extra reading after I finished it. For instance, I was wondering why Babs seemed to hate Helena so much and… then I remembered… (see Nightwing/Huntress). I was also lucky enough to find a couple of Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter back issues in the $2 bin of a local comic book store. What I ended up focusing on was The Question, The Huntress, their similarities, and their choices following the time they spent with Sensei Dragon.
I’ll start with The Question. Most of my knowledge about The Question comes from his original appearances in the back-up stories of Charlton’s 1967 Blue Beetle series. The Question was created by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. Ditko was a devote believer in objectivism, and The Question was created by Ditko to be an objectivist hero. In fact, those '67 Question stories read more like objectivist chick tracts than they do superhero comics. Now… I’m not a fan of objectivism, so I don’t think I would be able to describe what it is without biased editorializing. Therefore, I will let Vic Sage give you a basic synopsis of what objectivism is all about:
From Blue Beetle #4 (Charlton, 1967)
Ditko’s interpretation of objectivism also came with a black and white certainty to questions of good and evil. There was right and there was wrong with no shades of grey. If someone breached into wrong then they were a criminal. Once you are a criminal then you are a criminal for life, and you deserve what you have coming to you. Hence this scene (again from Charlton’s 1967 Blue Beetle #4):
It’s kind of even more brutal than these panels suggest as The Question is the one who kicked them into the water.
My headcanon is that everything is continuity, so The Question from the panels above is the same Question from this story. It’s also the same Question that learned under Richard Dragon in The Question (1986) #2. Vic’s breakthrough moment came after Richard told him a story about a philosopher who dreamt he was a butterfly and then woke up to wonder if he was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly or if he was a butterfly who now dreamed he was a man (hence why Dragon refers to Vic as “butterfly”). In my headcanon, this story is the perfect challenge to the certainty of Vic’s objectivism. After his time with Dragon, Vic came out a calmer, more understanding vigilante which is how we find him in this story.
What does all of this have to do with our girl Helena? Well, to start I could see some similarities between objectivism and the Sicilian concept of omerta as Helena describes it in issue #1:
The Question’s refusal to save the criminals in the sewer also reminded me a lot of how Huntress dealt with Mandragora at the end of Huntress (1989) #6. Therefore, it’s not surprising to me that Vic saw a lot of his old self in Helena and decides to take her to his old teacher for help.
Unfortunately for Vic, Helena didn’t exactly have her butterfly moment. The best she can do to explain why this is, is by telling him:
What I think she’s trying to say is that she can’t change. The things that happened to her as a child, losing her family, already changed her permanently. Those things that happened long ago caused her actions today, so they may as well have happened years and years ago. She is certain there was nothing she could do. It was already done.
Circling back, as I mentioned before, I am not a big fan of objectivism. It is almost the complete opposite of the the things I believe in. That being said, I’ve always seen a kindred spirit in The Question (Steve Ditko) because of his stubborn, self-destructive, uncompromising beliefs. I feel the same way about Helena and that burning rage that gnaws at her very center until almost nothing else is left. That… makes me worry…
I’m hoping that one day I’ll wake up wondering if I’m a moth dreaming that he is a man… and that I’m not certain of the answer.