Trouble with Comics

Daily Breakdowns 070 - Not So Hornet

Green Hornet #1

Writer - Kevin Smith

Breakdowns - Phil Hester

Finished Art - Jonathan Lau

Publisher - Dynamite Entertainment. $3.99 USD

Smith adapts his script from an unproduced Green Hornet screenplay, and based on this first issue, it’s not hard to see why the script wasn’t used for the upcoming Seth Rogen film. I’m not trying to be mean here; it’s not terrible. But what it isn’t is original. Maybe that’s a flaw with the character and his origins, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original TV show aside from some clips. Green Hornet is basically a less moody version of Batman. He’s a rich vigilante who has some kind of agreement with the cops, he considers “Century City” his to protect, and he’s got some hornet-related gadgets and a tricked out car. Oh, and a sidekick, Kato.

We meet the Hornet as he’s eavesdropping on a meeting between Italian and Yakuza crime bosses, discussing whether a union could be arranged to bring about Hornet’s death. Hornet listens a bit, then he and Kato bust everything up and let the police arrest everyone. It seems this was the last of the bad guys in the city, and now that their five years of working together have resulted in this achievement, Kato can go off and start a family of his own and Hornet can go back to just being trust fund Britt, with his sleeping son and obnoxious wife. You know, the one who thinks it’s cute to pull a gun on her lethal weapon husband as a gag and then get pissed at him when he almost clocks her in self-defense. It’s an awkward scene and really doesn’t accomplish what one supposes was the goal, to set up the idea of the loving family/home and hearth that Britt will have to fight to protect even as his mission keeps him away from them, yadda yadda. And unlike, say, Dynamite’s own Lone Ranger book, the hero/minority sidekick relationship isn’t as smartly portrayed here. Smith switches between some slurs (“I thought you people were good at math.” “Which people?” “Short people.”) and some earnest man hugs.

Smith doesn’t bring his A material to the party, and who knows if it’s because he felt the script was fine as it was, or he got other movie-type commitments to deal with, or whatever. It’s just not that funny and Hornet isn’t very interesting. I was a little confused by the rest of the issue, as I thought we were seeing a flashback to a pre-Hornet Britt leading an aimless life as a rich kid, but upon closer inspection this is the next generation, and Britt’s son will have to experience that turning point moment where he knows he will need a green blazer to dispense justice. I guess I was thrown off because the earlier stuff didn’t have a lot of clues that it was taking place 25 years ago. One hopes that this version of Hornet gets more focus on character and originality than Smith gave his father.

It doesn’t help that Lau’s art comes off as kind of generic as well, but on closer look the storytelling (aided of course by Hester doing breakdowns) is sound. Actually, I give both of them credit for breaking down a busy script efficiently and cleanly—Smith often writes nine panels a page, much of it heavy with dialogue. It probably would have worked better with a grittier look, but colorist Ivan Nunes can’t help putting some sort of sparkle or shine or other effect on every surface, resulting in candy-colored streets and a hero whose cloth fedora gleams almost as much as his leather gloves.

—Christopher Allen