Or – “Chicago.  1938.”

The criminals of Chicago have run rampant in a city where even the authorities are corrupt, but their reign of terror is about to end.  No one is sure who he is, but one thing is clear:  The Green Hornet is taking over the town…

Green Hornet Year One #4
Writer: Matt Wagner
Penciller/Inker: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: Francesco Francavilla
Letters: Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Previously, on Green Hornet Year One:  Britt Reid traveled the world trying to find his way, avoiding responsibility as best he could.  While in China, he saved the life of a young Japanese soldier named Kato, who pledged his loyalty to Britt, and both returned to America.  Last issue, the duo donned the masks of their new identities, and made their presence known to a hood named Caruso, busting up his speakeasy and leaving the underworld wondering exactly who and what the Green Hornet is.  As for Britt and Kato, they’re finding that the original plan might be sidetracked by a better one.  Why FIGHT crime, when the Green Hornet is percieved as a criminal himself?  Why not TAKE OVER the rackets to put the racketeers out of business?

The Fix Is In, See?

We open at Police Headquarters, as reporter Mike Axford arrives to pump the crooked police chief for information about the mysterious man in green.  Mike finds more than he bargained for, leaving the station with a strange smile on his face.  As for Skids Caruso himself, he’s quite unhappy with his soiree being ended by the Hornet, and is willing to cripple his own men in order to send a message to those who would question his reign.  One of the best parts of this book so far has been the way two time-tracks parallel one another throughout, as we see the first outings of the Hornet and Kato in 1938, and their journey to ther destiny.  In the past, some eight months prior, Britt and Hayashi arrive in America, stopping just long enough to wire home for funding.  The pair set off again, only to get shanghaied (you should excuse the expression) by eight tough-guys in the dockyards of San Francisco.  Britt is stunned when Kato takes off his hat and proclaims, “You men.  You go NOW!”  (I’m sorry to say that I heard John Pinette’s Chinese restaurant owner voice with that line…)  Kato then proceeds to take out all eight tough guys in seconds, and apologize to Britt for the vulgar display.  Heh…  It’s a nice moment, and Kato’s slowly improving English works well here.

In the current timeframe (for the Hornet, I mean) Skids sends his men to to capture he ex-girlfriend (or is that ex-gun moll?) Della.  She declines their less-than-polite offer, and ends up getting kidnapped anyway.  A thug named Johnny punches her to stop her struggling, only to hear the voice of the Green Hornet taunting him.  “You SWING like a little girl, and here you are beating up girls!”  Johnny and his boys attack, only to have The Hornet leap into action, using the skills Kato taught him between the two timeframes of the story to kick the crud out of a former boxer named Rocko.  I really like how the two stories intertwine here, cutting from Britt in the past asking Kato to teach him karate straight to the Green Hornet kicking @$$.  It’s a skillful transition, and the art in both sequences is truly inspired work.  Aaron Campbell’s art is actually more striking to me than the contemporary Hornet series, honestly.  We end with the flashback of Britt and Kato arriving in Chicago only to see a headline that Britt’s father (the publisher of the Daily Sentinel) has died…

Yeah, I’m Takin’ Over This Town, See?

I have to say that I enjoy me some Green Hornet stories, but somehow having him in his own element (the crime-ridden streets of 30’s Chicago) works better for me in a lot of ways than having him in the present.  Not that the regular Green Hornet title isn’t good, or even that the Hornet doesn’ t work in a contemporary setting, but he’s a masked vigilante fighting against racketeers by pretending to be one.  Matt Wagner does the same trick here that he did with Zorro, cutting straight to the heart of the matter, showing us WHY the characters tics and habits work, making it all a cohesive whole and working in references to MANY different incarnations of the character for fans of any version of the Green Hornet, while making the story work if you’ve never read Green Hornet before.  I like the way this story is progressing, and the little touches that make it feel like a 30’s story (including subtle racism, which thankfully is responded to with immediate comeuppance) put the cherry on top.  Bottom Line:  Year One is excellent work from top to bottom, from story to art, from satchel to paige, and earns 5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  With the upcoming Green Hornet movie, I wondered whether a live action adaptation of a character you’ve never heard of makes you MORE likely to pick up a comic book version of their adventures?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Kevin
    July 20, 2010 at 7:20 am — Reply

    I could not agree with your evaluation more Matthew! I am really enjoying the Matt Wagner and Kevin Smith runs with the Hornet! It is a very underrated book and I hope both titles get a little more pop going forward. Great review!

  2. hermit
    July 20, 2010 at 11:30 am — Reply

    honestly, i could not get through issue 1. maybe it got better, i don’t know.

  3. Rome
    July 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm — Reply

    This is one of my favorite monthlies right now.

    I picked up the series with #1 after one of your strong review of the issue and have not been disapointed since.

    I have never been much of a Green Hornet fan, though I do vaguely remember him from my childhood, and I find the story totally compelling (but I guess I’m missing some good references. Damn!)

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