Growing up, I had a great love of old school radio dramas like “The Shadow”, “The Phantom” and “Flash – ahaaaa, saviour of the universe - Gordon”. Stories of guys who took it upon themselves to fight for right with nothing other than a mask, their wits and a good right hook. So it goes without saying “The Green Hornet” became a personal favorite. So when I found out that the creator of “Clerks”, “MallRats” and “Dogma” had turned his unproduced “Green Hornet” script into a ten part maxi-series to be published by Dynamite Comics, I did a little happy dance. I tend to do that a lot. Dynamite Comics has made name for itself producing some well regarded series based on licensed characters, like Zorro and the Lone Ranger (more favorites of mine), as well as Alex Ross' pet project, aptly named “Project: Superpowers”. And the fact this is only one of several “Hornet” projects being launched just means I am going to be one happy nerd when it is all said and done.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Issue #1 opens with the Black Beauty, Green Hornet's tricked out ride, rotating into view from its hiding place beneath the floor of a garage. Green Hornet & Kato, the unsung heroes of Century City, then take off to a meeting of the Mob and Yakuza, wherein the criminals discuss dealing with the one man stopping them from ruling the city completely, the Hornet himself. The Oyabun of the Yakuza, Oni Juuma, wants to consolidate power with the mob and squeeze the Green Hornet out, but Mafia leader Don Fannelli wants nothing to do with it, saying anyone who takes a shot at the Green Hornet ends up going down instead. As the Don prepares to leave, our hero enters the scene in style, declaring his rule over Century City. When the gangsters start to close in, Kato saves Green Hornet by crashing the party (literally) with the car. Fists (and Hornet darts) are thrown, and when the smoke clears, the Hornet stands triumphant! With the police closing, Green Hornet and Kato head for home, discussing what to do now that the last criminal elements in Century City have been dealt with. 'Retirement' is the word of the day, with Kato returning to his homeland of Japan and Britt Reid (Green Hornet's civilian ID) becoming a full time family man to his wife and young son, Britt Reid Junior. We fast forward some fifteen years, to young Reid waking to the sight of his girlfriend moving out and local paprazzi taking pictures. Despite his promise to propose, she still leaves, telling him she hates seeing him waste his potential. As his girl drives out of his life and the paparazzi still taking shots, Junior loses his cool and drops his shorts, offering a front page photo op to the media vultures. We cut to the Daily Sentinel newspaper building (another nod to the TV series), wherein we see the elder Reid comment on his son's latest photo op, saying “at least he's in shape.”
Issue #2 opens with Reid Sr. presiding over a editor's meeting of his newspaper staff. He vetoes using his son's latest 'celebutante' escapade in the paper, downplays a recent mayoral election poll and effectively buries a potentially scandalizing piece, citing possible corruption within the re-election campaign of mayor Frank Scanlon (another holdover from the TV series). Reid's staff also mention that Oni Juuma (the Yakuza boss) died in prison recently and Hirohito Juuma, his son, is in town to take care of his affairs. Reid extends an invitation to the young Juuma to a fundraiser at his home that evening as the meeting breaks up, Reid Sr. heads to his home (the site of the party) and has a discussion with his old friend, Scanlon, about the truth of the campaign story. Scanlon neither admits or denies anything, but does tell Reid Sr. that he doesn't like his chances. Later on, both Senior and Junior meeting for a monthly luncheon. Britt Junior tells his dad that his girlfriend walked out on him and how angry he is that the fund-raiser is on the same day his mother (and Senior's wife) died two years past. Senior tries to console his son but they end arguing with each other over Junior's not living up to his potential. You really get the sense they haven't seen eye to eye in ages. Just before they part, Junior promises to be at the party and show his support.
Later that evening, at “Stately Reid Manor” (cribbed from the Adam West 'Batman, no doubt), the re-election party is in full swing. Junior enters from the back and overhears two of his 'friends' talking smack about his dad. Despite how he may feel about his father, Junior tosses the pair out. (I would've too.) Hirohito Jumma arrives and is welcomed by Reid Senior and Scanlon. Both express their sympathies, while Juuma declares he is not his father's son and wants to restore his family honor. While all this is going on, a mysterious Asian beauty in a red dress enters the scene .... and is hit on by Britt Junior almost immediately. Junior strikes out, as the lady in red completely ignores him. Junior rolls with it, expressing the idea “it's going to be that kind of night.” He has no idea, as seconds later, ninjas (yeah, NINJAS!) crash the party. Reids Senior and Junior, as well as the lady in red, defend the rest of the party-goers. Britt Junior and the mysterious woman make a pretty good team, laying many of the ninja to waste with an ease that reminded me of another 'dynamic duo'.
Issue #2 ends with the ninjas closing in on our heroes. And a huge hint is dropped as to the femme fatale's identity, when she lays out several of the attackers with ....Hornet darts?! To which the elder Reid quietly exhales, “Kato?”
All in all, these first two issues were pretty well done. Smith's writing is top notch throughout. He keeps the pace of the 'movie' going without sacrificing his 'talky' style too much. The way he includes classic elements from the TV show is also well used. Most notably, the full page reveal of the Black Beauty (Green Hornet's own “Hornet-mobile”), in the first issue, is taken directly from the show. Obviously, Smith's plot for the film was based mainly on the Van Williams/Bruce Lee starring TV show of the 1960's. His version of Britt Reid/Green Hornet is suave and debonair, while projecting a trademark Smith sarcastic attitude that is not too over the top. And though Kato is not in the story for long, Smith portrays him just like Bruce Lee did in the series, quite and powerful. And as the story moves forward, Smith ages Reid Senior appropriately, both in his speech and his attitude. Britt Junior is presented as what would seem to be the typical spoiled/under-estimated rich kid, though you can see he isn't entirely a jerk. I also quite liked the back and forth between these two. The banter/bickering sounded believable and really reminded me of my dad and myself, back in the day.
I really liked the art in these issues as well. The art team of Jonathan Lau (pencils) and Ivan Nunes (colors) comes together very well. Lau's art style is solid, without feeling too stiff and Nune's colors are quite good, though I think his use of shadows is a little heavy in some panels. I also felt the art had a kind of 'polished' or 'shiny' look to it at times. I still loved it though.
All in all, I have to give it up to Smith and company. My prior nerd bias not withstanding, I think this series is going to do great. I can't wait for the next issue .... which is coming out tomorrow. So, about time this got out, huh?? Later days!