By Clyde Hall. It’s considered blasphemy by people of a certain generation, but the truth is, I always liked The Green Hornet TV show a bit better than Batman. The storylines were played straight and with less camp, the villains were menacingly real-world, Black Beauty could be driven in the rain without drowning occupants, the uniforms were more practical, the main hero had wonder weapons, and his partner was Bruce Lee.
To a five-year-old, that checklist makes for a pretty cool action adventure program. Only later did I learn about the connection between the Hornet and the Lone Ranger, the radio dramas and the serials, but the evidence mounted that I wasn’t alone thinking that the Green Hornet was a clever update and creative spin on the Ranger’s crimefighting legacy. Over the years, different companies have presented various versions of the character, set in assorted eras, and with differing results.
Dynamite’s use of him, especially in Masks, compares favorably with any comic book interpretation that’s come before. However, their new series premiere, Green Hornet (Volume 2) #1, takes the hero-masquerading-as-mobster in a new direction with writer Amy Chu.
Chu is exactly the talent you pray for when taking an established character on a singular, unique trajectory. The Dynamite Green Hornet’s modern exploits previously involved Britt Reid, Jr. behind the emerald guise of his father, aided by the aging Hayashi Kato and his daughter, Mulan Kato, who took on the mantle of her own father.
Chu constructs the next chapter of the modern mythology as Britt, Jr. goes missing and the Green Hornet with him. As the mystery deepens and with no indication whether Reid is alive or dead, a power vacuum develops in Century City’s underworld while crime boss wannabes try to pass themselves off as the Hornet. To counter this, Mulan finally takes her place as the new Green Hornet, with her father returning to his role as Kato.
In setting the new series into motion, Chu does so much more. She explores the very nature of the Green Hornet, not just as an individual but as a concept. As a legend. Fierce master martial artist Kato copes with aging, and while he’s still an amazing combatant, he’s also only human. Journalistic integrity confronts today’s truth-dismissing mass media. Kato faces a hostile takeover of the Daily Sentinel while he assumes the role of acting publisher. And Chu balances the action and intrigue with a sly, spot-on humor at precisely the right moments. (The faux Hornets vying for underworld prominence were especially snicker-worthy.)
Fundamentally changing the gender and race of an existing character is always a dicey process lined with pits and pratfalls, but Amy Chu negotiates her course flawlessly. The Hornet legend was built by two families, and who better to inherit the guise than a member of either? Mulan and her relative, Clutch, are established characters already part of the Hornet continuity, avoiding any awkward shoehorning of some long-lost cousin Oliver, or even Olivia, Reid. The transfer is logical, organic, and natural.
The chaos of the streets, the shadowed uncertainty of a headquarters sans its hero, flow from artist German Erramouspe’s work. His style fits the narrative like a weighted leather glove, impacting in just the right places with panel arrangements varied, effective, and interesting. And the new Green Hornet ensemble is faultless, nostalgic while new and novel. It begs for cosplayers to indulge themselves.
First issues examining vintage characters in a whole new way, while retaining the strengths and components that made that character memorable, do not come much better than this. My Green Hornet passion may have originated Old School, but this creative team has me thrilled. The New School is now in session.
Written by Amy Chu.
Art by German Erramouspe.
Colors by Brittany Pezzillo.
Letters by Tom Napolitano.
9 out of 10
Check out this five-page preview and cover gallery from ‘Green Hornet’ #1, courtesy of Dynamite!