Green Hornet #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: German Erramouspe
Cover: Mike Choi
Colors: Brittany Pezzillo
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Over the years, the Green Hornet has been a solid player for Dynamite Comics. He’s a character perhaps best known for his stint on television, where he’s most associated with the iconic car and the late, great Bruce Lee’s portrayal of Kato. However, the Green Hornet also has the advantage of a clever concept—the notion of a superhero who pretends to be a criminal as a means of fighting crime. This has led to some good runs during the book’s revival, particularly under Kevin Smith and Mark Waid.
For this version, Dynamite has opted to follow up on the Kevin Smith version, featuring an older Britt Reid and Kato. This time, however, they appear to be setting up Kato’s daughter Mulan as a successor to the Green Hornet, establishing a generational legacy. Although I’m not deeply familiar with Mulan as a character, this looks like a reasonable decision, shaking up the franchise in a different way.
The new version of Green Hornet presents a solid start to Dynamite’s new direction for the character, though it’s largely a setup issue.
The main cover for this issue is provided by Mike Choi, who does a presentable job with this cover. I have no real complaints with this image on a technical level, at least as an illustration. This is a good drawing of the character, and the new Hornet’s pose and facial features are identifiable as Mulan. The presentation of the costume likewise looks good, and the coloring gets the iconic green across quite nicely. However, as a teaser for the issue, it falls somewhat flat, since the cover doesn’t offer much beyond the profile and the pose. We don’t get any real sense from the cover what this story really is about, aside from this new person in the Green Hornet costume. In fairness, this may be enough for some readers. However, there isn’t much else that stands out or draws the reader into the issue.
Though German Erramouspe is not a name that I’ve encountered before, his work on Green Hornet tells the story perfectly well. The artwork here is at its strongest when it’s allowed to focus on background details, such as the Hornet’s lair and the Black Beauty. There are some excellent splash pages in this issue, and when they’re called for, each of them has depth and emotional weight. The layouts and the visual storytelling are effective, such as the page where the Green Hornet’s story is told through a sequence of old photos. We get a sense of the Green Hornet’s world through the description and details presented here as much as through the narrative, and all that shines through quite cleanly in these pages. If I have any issues on an artistic level, it’s that there’s a scratchiness to the line work and the characters’ faces could be more distinctive and expressive than we see here. That having been said, the artwork here succeeds in what it needs to do, and that works well enough for a first issue.
The Green Hornet is a character that thrives on good, vibrant colors, which Brittany Pezzillo provides for this issue. The iconic green is a key visual aspect of the character, and Pezzillo portrays this effectively throughout the issue. At the same time, she also doesn’t overplay that element, using it where it matters most, such as during certain key flashbacks and Mulan’s debut in the new Hornet costume. Where appropriate, there is also good mood lighting, and there’s a solid range of lighting that covers a good range of tones we see in the issue. The old photos featuring Britt and young Kato are given a nice black-and-white effect, with newer photos looking more vibrant and colorful as they move closer to the present. At the same time, darker scenes are well contrasted against the daytime scenes, with each showing us a different aspect of Kato through the mood lighting. It’s good color work that gets across the important aspects of the characters visually.
Tom Napolitano returns for another quality Dynamite series, and his presence serves the story rather nicely. The lettering ends up being useful particularly in scenes where news clippings and online Web pages tell the story, and Napolitano’s strong use of fonts makes those elements convincing. He also makes an interesting choice to have the first-person narrative captions in black backgrounds, with white text for the narration. It’s odd that he chose this style instead of working green into her narration, but considering that Kato generally is associated with his black costume, it works for this issue. The sound effects are well done as always, particularly during the action sequences, where the fonts contribute to the storytelling. When Kato throws an attacker, the font adds impact to the hit through size, style, and placement. Napolitano is always a solid player on any title he letters, and that’s the case here as well.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Amy Chu is a good writer for Dynamite, having produced fine work on titles like Red Sonja. With this issue, she proves a good choice to launch this title, as this provides a solid introduction to the Green Hornet. This book’s primary challenge is to remain consistent with the previous runs, while also being a good jumping-on point for new readers who are jumping in fresh. Chu does that successfully, explaining the legacy of the Green Hornet in the opening few pages. She uses Mulan as the reader’s gateway into the book, establishing who she is as a character and the sizable green boots she’s determined to fill. Although I haven’t read the title in some time, I had no trouble following the current situation; it’s explained clearly while not drowning the book in exposition.
The other challenge that Chu faces here is in establishing Mulan as a worthy successor, and why she would choose to be the Green Hornet. The mystery of what happened to Britt Reid works, as this both explains why a Green Hornet is needed and sets up a potential long-term arc. The idea that a vanished Green Hornet would create a power vacuum to be filled makes sense, and the angle of copycat Green Hornets is an interesting complication. This leaves Mulan in a situation where there is no one left who can continue the tradition but her, and she is driven to live up to her father’s expectations. In a way, Mulan is part of the Green Hornet family, so it is a duty that she feels responsible to uphold. That is a good motivation for a heroine, and the idea that her flaw may be excessive zeal to live up to that legacy is likewise intriguing. At the least, I’m interested in learning more about her.
All that having been said, the story is primarily an issue devoted to setting up the new status quo, and it doesn’t do anything tremendously groundbreaking. It should be stressed that this is by no means a bad thing, since exposition is an important aspect to this sort of relaunch title. However, it may be some time before the threads that Chu has woven here reach fruition. Some of those points may well depend on what she has planned for Britt Reid, and how his disappearance plays into her larger plans for the series. As things stand, though, this issue mainly does what it needs to do, but it doesn’t distinguish itself too noticeably.
If you’re interested in Dynamite’s pulp characters, Green Hornet is a good choice to begin with. While it helps to know the backstory from the previous series, this issue is a good starting point even for those who are brand new to the character. It hits just that right spot between accessibility and faithfulness to prior continuity, which should appeal to fans of the character.
Although this first issue is good enough to justify full cover price, this series has yet to really hit its potential. Because of that, Green Hornet earns a buzzing 8.5/10, though I hope it’ll eventually improve as it goes along. Mulan is a likeable lead character, at least for now, and the mystery and potential in this direction provides enough reason to keep reading for the time being. If you have some extra money to try something, and this idea intrigues you, Green Hornet may be worth looking into.
Written By Steve Sellers
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