Friday, September 13, 2013

Booknote: Green Hornet: Year One Omnibus

Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell, Green Hornet: Year One Omnibus. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Entertainment, 2013. ISBN: 9781606904213 (Link to publisher).

This is one that I truly enjoy. When I think of a good action comic that is not overly complicated and just fun reading, this will come to mind. Matt Wagner brings the origin of the Green Hornet to life with a good story, and Aaron Campbell's art is great as well capturing the 1930s era well in terms of color and ambiance.

Britt Reid is the son of a newspaper publisher and owner. However, he does not necessarily want to follow in his father's footsteps. So he goes on a trip around the world to find his path. Along the way, he makes it to China, only to get caught up in the Japanese invasion of China and what would later be known as the Nanking Massacre. Kato is a young Japanese man, son of an honorable samurai and ninja. Despite his father's disappointment, Kato joins the army because he feels it is his duty to serve. However, when he finds himself in Nanking, he is horrified at the atrocities the Japanese are committing. Kato deserts the army and even tries to counter some of the atrocities. He gets caught by the army, and in a nick of time, Britt saves him. Together, they become friends and allies, manage to get out of China, and come back to the U.S. Tragedy strikes as Britt's father has passed on, so Britt must now take over the newspaper. However, Britt also has a thirst for justice, and with Kato at his side and some help, he becomes the vigilante hero known as the Green Hornet and strives to take down the mob.

As the title states, this volume covers the first year of the Green Hornet and his assistant Kato. The story is set up as a combination of present day events, in which the Green Hornet is already fighting crime and engaged in a crusade against mobster Vincent "Skid" Caruso, and flashbacks to the early 1920s and 1930s where we see Britt and Kato growing up in their respective homes. The narrative moves well, and the transitions from one element to another are well-handled. The characters are well developed with good depth. The action sequences are fast paced and good, and the art brings them to life with attention to detail and color. I did enjoy not only reading this but also looking at it. One thing I like about the Green Hornet is his use of non-lethal weapons and tactics. This is something that is made clear in the story. I also find interesting that the mob thinks he is just another mobster trying to muscle in, something he uses to his advantage.

This collection includes issues 1-12 of the Green Hornet: Year One comic series from Dynamite. If you enjoy period stories, and perhaps a little noir, you will probably enjoy this. I think fans of the Green Hornet will enjoy this comic as well. To be honest, I think this is a much better work than Dynamite's other Green Hornet work done by Kevin Smith (you can find my review of one of those volumes here). Year One has depth, a good story that readers can get into, a hero they can root for, and the art let's you visualize it all. For me, this is one to pick up, and I do highly recommend it. The volume also features a cover gallery.

I am giving this one a 5 out of 5 stars. Though I read it via NetGalley, this is one that I would buy the print volume for my personal collection. Public libraries will want to add this one to their collections. Academic libraries with pop culture and/or recreational reading collections may want to add it as well. I will likely order it for our library at the college.

Works with similar appeal:

  • The Shadow comics series.
  • Some of Marvel's Noir series (although Green Hornet is a lot less gritty than say, Wolverine Noir, but I think there are common appeal elements).

Disclosure note: In order to keep The Man happy, I get to tell you that I read this via NetGalley as an e-book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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