Green Hornet #1-2 (Dynamite)

Kevin Smith offers up a director’s cut in comic book form to a movie that never was.

 

 

32 pgs. ea. full color; $3.99 ea.
(W: Kevin Smith; A: Jonathan Lau w/ Phil Hester and Ivan Nunes)
 
It was one of the great “coulda-beens” of the last decade: Kevin Smith writing and directing a film starring the Green Hornet, the masked crimefighter created by George W. Trendle and Lone Ranger creator Fran Striker. While never quite gaining the name recognition of his fellow pulp-era heroes (the Shadow, Batman, Zorro, etc.), the character has maintained a cult following from his first radio appearance in 1936 through film serials, decades of comic book appearances and, most notably, a 1960s TV series starring Van Williams as the trenchcoat-clad Green Hornet and a young Bruce Lee as his kung fu fightin’ sidekick, Kato. Smith and the Hornet seemed like a match made in heaven: by the time of the movie’s announcement in 2004, the character had been out of the public eye for years and was primed for a comeback in the era of the comic book-based blockbuster, and Smith had proven his nerd bona fides and skills outside of dialogue-driven comedy with runs writing Daredevil and Green Arrow comics. But ultimately, Smith decided he didn’t have the chops to direct an action movie and quietly let the project die, setting the stage for the upcoming film starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, and Christoph Waltz.
 
When Dynamite scored the license to publish Green Hornet comics, company president Nick Barrucci contacted Smith about writing for the company’s upcoming line of movie tie-ins. Smith didn’t have room in his schedule to write a new script, so he offered them something even better: his already-completed film script, which somehow never managed to leak to the internet (a downright miracle in this day and age). For this comic book maxiseries, often called Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet, Smith has retooled his script from the ground up, both chopping it up into digestible chunks and adding in scenes that he had cut from his movie script, making this comic series a sort of director’s cut to a movie that never was.
 
The result, at least so far, is a pretty typical intro to a new action series, which makes it pretty atypical as far as Smith-written comics go: it lacks the hard edge of his work on Daredevil, the disturbing weirdness of his recent Batman series (Cacophony and The Widening Gyre, both with artist Walt Flanagan), or the sharp wit of his Clerks or Jay & Silent Bob books. This is straight ahead action and origin and not much else, and though Smith gets in a few chuckles (Hornet: “I thought you people were supposed to be good at math.” Kato: “And what people would that be?” Hornet: “Y’know—short people.”), the dialogue is perfunctory action movie dialogue more often than not. That isn’t to say the script is bad, just a tad generic, and lacking the personality that most people expect from Smith.
 
The story, what little has been presented in these first two issues, is off to a good start. The first issue spends the bulk of its page count following Britt Reid (the Green Hornet) and Kato as they take down the last vestiges of the Mafia and the Yakuza in Century City. Their fight against organized crime completed, Reid and Kato bid each other farewell. Flash forward a couple decades and Reid is a widower and the fabulously wealthy publisher of the town’s major newspaper, the Sentinel, while his son Dan is a directionless twentysomething in the process of losing his long term girlfriend. When the elder Reid hosts a fundraiser for the city’s mayor, ninja-esque baddies bust up the proceedings only to face surprise resistance from a powerful, mysterious, gorgeous Asian babe. If the covers are to be believed, in short order we’ll be following young Dan Reid and this new, nameless female as the new Green Hornet and Kato. If this is meant to be a surprise, Dynamite probably should have gone a different direction with their cover art, which prominently features a female Kato.
 
(And speaking of covers, the first issue of Green Hornet has a whopping fifteen of them while issue #2 carries nine variants, and both issues sport a $4 price tag. Dynamite is clearly aiming this series at the hardcore comic collector more than the mass market audience you’d think available when you have marketing phrases like “written by Kevin Smith!” and “soon to be a major motion picture starring Seth Rogen!” available to you.)
 
Again, the emphasis is on action here, with 8 of the 22 story pages in each issue dedicated to fight scenes. Artist Jonathan Lau seems well-suited to the project: he’s got a firmly modern art style along the lines of Leinil Yu or Stephen Segovia, with square-jawed heroes that have a realistic look without leaning on the crutch of over-referenced photorealism. He’s aided here by Smith’s Green Arrow coconspirator Phil Hester, who provides breakdowns that help keep the fight scenes running smoothly. Lau is still relatively new to comics and makes some beginner’s mistakes, with a few of hard-to-follow panels and a generous scattering of anatomical mistakes (especially a few characters with freakishly long legs), but the art overall is solid and easy to follow, a good thing for a series with this kind of crossover appeal.
 
Lau is helped by colorist Ivan Nunes, who colors directly off of Lau’s pencils. While the slick line of a talented inker would have helped more, Nunes does a good job at adding depth and texture to Lau’s art and generally makes solid choices, although he occasionally goes a little overboard with lighting effects.
 
Overall, Green Hornet doesn’t quite live up to its potential. It’s not a bad comic, just a fairly generic one, though with the talent of the creators involved there’s definitely the potential for improvement as the series goes along. | Jason Green
 
To learn more, click here to visit Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet website.

 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply