GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE
Writer Matt Wagner
Artist Aaron Campbell
In the three years I’ve written Pulp Fiction Reviews, I’ve never bothered to shine a light on comics. I am making an exception here because of the quality and pulp strings attached to this marvelous title from Dynamite Comics. Okay, so the Green Hornet was never a pulp hero, having been born on the radio along about the same time as the Shadow and other great melodramatic heroes. He would also make the jump to the movie serials and comics casting him clearly in the same mold as the glorious pulp characters of his day.
Earlier this year Dynamite opened the Green Hornet floodgates and inundated the comic world with more Green Hornet titles than ever put by a single publisher before. There was Kevin Smith’s supposed old unused movie script and individual books featuring the various Katos etc.etc. For the most part most of these are lackluster affairs truly not worth any fans time or hard earned coins.
Almost lost amongst this plethora of mediocre fare was one singular gem, GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE. Conceived and written by veteran scribe Matt Wagner, it tells the story of the original verdant clad avenger and his Asian side-kick in a historically accurate time frame. It is the late 1930s and Germany and Japan are dicing up the world map to their own gratification and dreams of empire building. Against this background, Britt Reid, the bored, educated son of a Chicago newspaper publisher, decides to answer the call of wanderlust and go traipsing around the globe. He wants to have one big glorious adventure before he resigns himself to filling his father’s shoes and spending the next twenty years of his life behind a desk.
Meanwhile in the Land of the Rising Son, Hiyashi Kato has been raised by his noble sire to be a modern Samurai and live by their strict code of martial honor. When he is summarily drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army and becomes part of the invasion of China, he witnesses acts of brutal atrocity that challenge his very moral core. He deserts, choosing in the course of right and ultimately crosses paths with the young American, who saves his life in a freakish accident. Kato vows to accompany Reid and be his companion until his debt his repaid.
Wagner, realizing today’s audiences need action, jumps back and forth between these events and those occurring after the duo’s return to Chicago. Here they discover Reid Senior has died and left the running of the Daily Sentinel to his son. Once in this lofty position, Britt will come to understand the dept of the corruption infecting his beloved city by the criminal gangs, all of which will lead him to become a masked crime fighter with his loyal Kato ever at his side in the livery of a masked chauffeur.
Aaron Campbell’s art is so evocative of the times this story unfolds in, one has to wonder if he doesn’t spend every waking second in a library reference hall. His work captures not only the look but the atmosphere of these unsettling days when America, having just survived the Great Depression is on the brink another world conflict, unsure if the future spells doom or glory for the brash young country.
GREEN HORNET – YEAR ONE is a terrific comic series and does justice above and beyond to one of the great classic radio heroes of all time. Any pulp fan worth his fedora would be wise to pick it up.