Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Green Hornet: Year One by Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell

Ignore Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet film – it was garbage. Ignore Kevin Smith’s updated reimagining of Green Hornet which was average at best. Matt Wagner takes Green Hornet back to his classic pulp era roots in Green Hornet: Year One – and it’s pretty good. 

Set in the 1930s when Green Hornet/Britt Reid and his deadly samurai chauffeur Kato are kicking gangster butt in Century City, Wagner jumps back and forth between Britt and Kato’s youths and the present (1930s) to tell their stories of how they wound up together and why they decided to become masked vigilantes. 

And Wagner does it well. Perhaps the biggest problem of Rogen and Smith’s Green Hornet stories was failing to put across that Green Hornet and Kato intentionally portrayed themselves as villains in an effort to control crime in their city, thus discouraging their competitors ie. other criminals, from plying their wares in their city. They want people to think they’re the bad guys, not superheroes. It’s a vital part of the Green Hornet story yet often gets overlooked, but Wagner gets it right, explaining how they arrive at that conclusion rather than become outright good guy vigilantes. 

I won’t go into the hows and whys of the story as that’s basically the whole point of reading the origin story of any character, but it all makes sense and slots together nicely. The flashbacks between the past and the present work really well together as the flashbacks eventually catch up to the present by the end of the book so you finish it all caught up on Green Hornet and Kato and ready to start reading Green Hornet comics. The one detail of Green Hornet’s myth that Wagner left out that I would’ve liked Wagner to have at least hinted at is that Green Hornet is the Lone Ranger’s grandson. There’s a framed picture of Lone Ranger and Tonto in the background of one of the panels but if you’re a new reader you won’t know this brilliant piece of info. 

So why the average rating? I realised reading this that I’m just not a Green Hornet fan. I have no real criticisms of the book, the writing and art are both handled nicely, and this is as good an origin story for the character as could be hoped for. But I read the book disinterestedly because the characters don’t mean much to me, not like in the same way that Superman and his origin would enthral me because Superman is a character I do really care about. I suppose the argument could be made that Wagner should make me care about Green Hornet - that’s his responsibility as the writer – but if he’s sticking to the original character and hitting all the right notes, and I’m still not into the book, then it’s not the writer’s fault, it’s just that I’m simply not interested in the character and subject matter. 

I like that Wagner made it a straight period piece rather than try to jazzify it by making him 21st century and “edgy” like Kevin Smith tried, with varying results, and that he avoided the comedy slapstick angle entirely like Seth Rogen attempted; the tone is instead just right, told straight. Green Hornet: Year One is a well put together origin tale that’s a great place to start if you’re new to Green Hornet and want to know more about the character and his world.

Green Hornet: Year One Volume 1

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