GREEN HORNET: Year 1 Volume 1 by Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell
The old pulp heroes of the 1930s just never go away. The Green Hornet was originally a radio program at the time and never got a pulp named after him, but Britt Reid and Kato are two heroes that everyone who knows pop culture will remember. Many of them these days remember the old 1960s television show that starred Bruce Lee, never guessing that the heroes had their roots decades earlier.
The Green Hornet has been reinvented a few times for the present day, including a female Kato, which has provided an interesting spin on the dynamics of the crime fighting duo. All of those are fun to read in graphic novel form, but I have to say that Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell’s Green Hornet Year One series is absolutely the bomb.
Set in the 1930s, the graphic novel sets out to tell how Britt Reid and Kato grew up, how they eventually found each other, and how they were set onto the trail of “tracking the biggest game.” Wagner does an excellent job of starting out showing snippets from Britt’s and Kato’s histories, then segueing into their “present day” pursuit of mob boss “Skid” Caruso.
The stories continue switching back and forth, from the past to the present. Wagner spent considerable effort figuring out his time line for our two heroes. Kato was present for the Japanese assault on Nanking, and Britt traveled the world’s hot spots. Finally the two end up together in China and have to make their way back to the United States.
The symbology for the choice of the Green Hornet as Britt’s signature guise was nicely done, and the section set in Africa where Britt uses them against would-be killers is well played. Finding out who the mechanic was who built the Black Beauty (although a recent movie adaptation insists Kato constructed the rolling dreadnought) was nicely handled as well, with its own vengeance story.
Campbell’s art is dead on. The action is hot and heavy, and the period piece architecture, fashion, and weapons all look realistic. The martial arts sections are done really well too.
Wagner creates a resonance in the story that pulls everything together into a tight little seam at the end. Both arcs, past and present, build toward the final confrontation between the Green Hornet and Caruso, and by the time we get there, a lot of emotion has been whetted for that confrontation, which is nothing short of absolutely cinematic.