“Green Hornet: Year One”
Writer/ Art Director: Matt Wagner
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: Francesco Francavilla
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Four different covers available for this first issue, and no fewer than four ads for other Green Hornet titles inside the book itself. Dynamite’s definitely latched onto a presumed cash cow here and are intent on milking it for all it’s worth.Wagner, on the other hand, has always had a strong affinity for pulp heroes, and his genre reflexes are sharp as ever. There’s a lot of “What th’ hell is DIS crap?!” from Chicago mob mooks and long, inscrutable lectures from Kato’s samurai father. I did have a bit of a pause at Kato demonstrating his English, though; the line is written in dialect in a way that comes off as uncomfortable parody, sort of like Claremont’s crazy Scots and Irish brogues. I think I might’ve been happier with stilted syntax, in place of a written-in accent stereotype, in Kato’s case. Sure, the broad depiction of Asians speaking English is a 1930s pulp standard, but I’m uneasy with it all the same.
The book is divided into two A-plots, involving Kato and Britt respectively, and one B-plot where they team up to take on some gangsters. Kato and Britt’s separate plot arcs deal in a lot of the same emotional territory from different cultural angles, playing up their similarities. Where Britt is impatient with his father’s insistence on the power of journalism to dismantle the Chicago Mob, Kato disagrees with his father’s opposition to the rule of Emperor Hirohito. We don’t get to see, yet, how any of that adolescent rebellion plays out for them; we see them fighting together as adults, but the rest of that road is left for the next three issues.
Aaron Campbell provides gritty pencils and sharp, darkly-defined inks, while Francesco Francavilla lays down menacing oranges and reds in sharp contrast to Britt’s green costume. Wagner’s obviously had a hand here in specifying how the color work should look and what mood it should convey; I’m reminded of the work of Jeromy Cox, Wagner’s colorist on Mage: The Hero Defined. That’s not a bad thing; I’m a huge fan of Cox’s work, and Francavilla could do a lot worse than to earn the comparison. The reds and oranges spill into the gutters, too, a nice artistic touch that provides a sense of cohesion to the page.
We don’t get a lot of original development or new riffage on the Hornet’s gangbustin’ crusader concept here. What we do get is a lot of setup and one pretty solid gangster beatdown, and if you like the Green Hornet already, that’s probably what you were expecting. I could wish for a little more nuance, but that’s really not what pulp is for, is it?