I think the answer lies in history, or, using the more dreaded term, continuity. Serialized storytelling is a tough nut to crack, and years of back stories can bog down an ongoing plot, and keep new readers from understanding the hero being championed within a superhero comic. Them's been the breaks, I suppose, as readership gets older and plots get darker, and a body can't figure out what caused Superman to lose his powers for the billionth time. DC had a point in rebooting their continuity, much as I decried the loss of fun legacy characters and marriages and decades-old histories at the start of the New 52. A lot of great things were lost when continuity was thrown out the window, but a lot of cool potential could have remained. Except there was a lot of abandoned history tugging its way back into the DC Universe from the reboot's beginning. Most of what had happened in the Green Lantern and Batman books had still happened, including that one big zombie nightmare, and Batman having five Robins somehow in five years. Add to that Barbara Gordon finding time to be both Oracle and Batgirl, and it doesn't feel like DC wants you to ignore its previous continuity.
Perhaps more puzzling was DC's insistence that different books be set in different time periods. For example, Superman told present-day stories about Superman, but Action Comics told the story of his early career. This is certainly a wiser decision than throwing immediate crossovers across all the Superman books, but crossovers invaded anyway, fairly early on in the new continuity. So even if you were reading one book, its story would continue in another. You'd end up just as confused as in a pre-New 52 world, with multiple timelines thrashing you about. Clearly, continuity is still a problem for DC, and the reintroduction of Helena Bertinelli only highlights this for me.
Helena started out as an intriguing extension of Batman. She began as a what-if on DC's Earth 2, where heroes are allowed to get married (pre-New 52, of course). Known on that Earth as Helena Wayne, she was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and she fought crime under the name Huntress. Here's where a cool and confusing wrinkle sets in. Helena Bertinelli was ALSO introduced as Huntress, but in the mainstream DC Universe, where Batman and Catwoman are nowhere close, and likely never will be close, to putting a ring on it. So, if she wasn't Batman's daughter, who could she be? In the mainline DC comics, she became the daughter of a mafia family, whose parents were gunned down before her eyes. While Batman vowed to pursue justice in the wake of his parents' murder, Helena B. vows revenge, and makes a name for herself in Gotham City through the use of brutal and often murderous tactics. One Helena comes from a stable if adventurous home; the other comes from the same dark place as Bruce Wayne's Caped Crusader. Imagine the different stories that can be told with these two! Imagine how confounding it would be for a new reader to see two Huntresses now, as both Helenas apparently exist in the New 52 mainstream universe!
Of course, the creators of Grayson are keeping Helena Bertinelli out of the Huntress garb. She is a super-spy and not a superheroine in their series. Which, fair enough. That's a simple way to solve the problem of having two Helenas running around. But if you want to write stories featuring Helena Bertinelli, can you really disassociate her from her past life as a crime fighter? If you can, why bother calling her Helena Bertinelli, since she's clearly meant to be a completely new, not simply refreshed, person? Why not create an original character, with limitless potential, and leave Helena B. retired?
Such questions spoil my excitement at her New 52 return. Initially, I'd wanted everyone who had vanished back in DC's comics, playing the roles I remembered them in: Wally the smart-mouth Flash; Stephanie the second chances Batgirl; Helena the hothead Huntress. But that was all the way back in 2011 and 2012, before it became clear that the New 52 was a sour, humorless exercise in shuffle-boarding. What do I mean by shuffle-boarding? Essentially, DC has built its new universe on a series of incidents that still call back to previous continuity, while editors reintroduce characters as more SUPER-HARDCORE, EXTREME versions of themselves. See: Superman as a murderer, Wonder Woman as his God of War girlfriend, and lesser characters as cannon fodder. Nobody has really changed, just shuffled to the more bombastic sides of their personalities in a cynical cash grab meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator. For example, Stephanie Brown was originally created to spoil her father the Cluemaster's crimes. In Batman Eternal, she is ... still working to spoil her father's crimes, except now it looks like her mother might also be in on his dastardly plots? QUELLE SURPRISE! EXTREME TO THE MAX!
What is the use of telling the same stories, with like-minded characters, but with the outcomes slightly altered to provide a cynical rather than hopeful aftertaste? Is DC so scared of its own continuity, its own history, and its own stable of optimistic icons, that the only way to get compelling material greenlit is to ensure its essential hopelessness? Hopelessness has its place in storytelling, but that's where Helena Bertinelli started. She grew from cynical loner to team player, team leader, and friend. The way current continuity is going at DC, hopelessness is where readers start, and where they land. Without variation of outlook and outcome, how will these stories stand the test of time? Potential is the bonus inherent in launching a reboot. But pinning characters with old names, alluding to exhausted back stories, and doling out tragic endgames? That washes all the potential away, leaving only stale crumbs for writers to collect and serve back to us. I want more for readers, though I hope for better for Helena Bertinelli, super-spy.
Huntress Artist: Nicola Scott.