Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet #1
Written by Kevin Smith
Art by Phil Hester (breakdowns) and Jonathan Lau
Color by Ivan Nunes
Round-table Review by David Pepose, George Marston, and Lan Pitts
With the arrival of “Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet #1”, Dynamite opens a pretty heavy ground offensive centered around the titular hero and his partner Kato. Over the next several weeks, we’ll see a variety of titles built around the character; some are set in the past, others the future, while more explore the legacy of Kato. We decided to have three members of our Best Shots Team take a look at the first issue, and see how it holds up in the face of the pressure that comes from supporting its own sub-line and from being the latest effort from Kevin Smith.
David Pepose Says: What I'll say about the writing in this book is that it has the potential for greatness, even if it's not quite there yet. Particularly in the moments with the Green Hornet and Kato working together, you can see Kevin Smith's enthusiasm for the property -- even completely new readers will get a sense of the camaraderie and good humor here. That said, where this first issue stumbles is in the structure -- it takes awhile to heat up, then runs particularly strongly... and then derails into an entirely different story in the last four pages. I understand the love of the mythology here -- and the character of Britt Reid Jr. seems interesting in and of himself -- but as far as first issues go, it pulls the rug out from underneath us.
Out of everything in this book, the art is actually the most refreshing part of Green Hornet. There's a real sense of enthusiasm to Jonathan Lau's lines -- everything seems to explode with waves of energy. There's also a real stylishness to the composition -- which I can't help but see Phil Hester's hand at work here. Seeing the Hornet in action looks great, but in a lot of ways, Kato really steals the show, with the fight sequences and the colors working together in a way that makes the fighting both metaphorically and literally flashy. It's a really strong counterpoint to Smith's occasionally "talky" style. I also have to say that Lau does a nice job with the emotions in here, too -- I really dug Britt's little smile to Kato, or even his son's little smile as we see he knows far more than his parents let on.
The good news about this book is that you don't need to know much about the Green Hornet in order to get into it -- it's a surprisingly user-friendly piece, if you can get over the very real structural issues in its script. For Kevin Smith fans, you might be surprised by how restrained he seems -- the usual tangents and self-referential humor is largely absent except for a few tongue-in-cheek moments, and I think the piece is so much stronger for it. While I usually say a series has one chance to win me over, the potential for the "true" lead of this book has me intrigued.
Lan Pitts Says: Art: I'm sure it would have been better with an inker. The colors over the pencils just look odd to me, but I know this isn't the first time this has happened. I’m just not a fan of it. It doesn't look as finished, ya know? That being said, Hester's layouts/page and panel breakdown is incredible. It has a dynamic feel during the action scenes and then takes a more subtle approach when it's the quieter moments. The designs are what GH fans have come to know and love so there's no deviation here.
Story: Penis jokes in a GH, comic? Really, Smith? That probably has to be my biggest gripe, well that and the mooning scene. I understand adding a bit of humor to the character, but you can't go 0 to Ass that fast; it just looks stupid. The beginning of the book is more of what I expected, though that fight scene lasted way too long. I understand set up and you want a page-turner, but it just felt too drawn out, despite the fast-paced art. With him (young Reid) being single, I wonder if Smith will now have a budding romance between the new Kato (yet to be seen) and GH. I sure hope not.
Relevant to new/old GH fans: This will probably polarize fans. There is a sort of a collective idea of what the Green Hornet sounds, looks, and acts like. I don't think this book is headed towards the right direction if this is what we're getting into. I think Smith is at his best when he's writing his characters and he has the track record to prove it (Spider-Man/Black Cat, anyone?) Though with a name like Smith, people may be intrigued and give this character a try. I haven't brushed this off completely, I'm just not overly impressed.
George Marston Says: The Green Hornet will always have a place in my heart. As a child, I spent many an afternoon parked in front of my television with my father, watching re-runs of "The Lone Ranger," "Batman," "Zorro," and indeed "The Green Hornet." Though there are inevitable comparisons to Batman and Robin inherent in the story of Britt Reid and his sidekick Kato, their dynamic is far from the typical scenario of the crime fighter and teen sidekick. Indeed, the Green Hornet has always stood apart from his pulpy peers, embracing and even utilizing the perception that he is no better than the criminals he corrals. Kevin Smith does not shy away from these elements, and the first part of his story is as fine an introduction to this view of the Green Hornet as I have seen. Rather than bogging down his story with exposition, he sets the stage with the simple caption, "Then..." and lets the panels speak for themselves.
If I have one complaint about this sequence, it is Smith's reliance on anti-Asian sentiment for both humor and tension. It crops up several times, and while it may humanize the characters and place them in the proper era, it is a little uncomfortable. The story continues into the present day, where we are introduced to the character that will undoubtedly take the mantle of the title character in the coming issues. Unfortunately, he is hardly endearing, and is reminiscent of the more typical slacker oeuvre that populates Smith's films. The Green Hornet concept is original enough to begin with; changing things up by bringing in a hip, young, Gen-X'er living off a trust fund may seem like the logical method of flying in the face of the Batman prototype, but honestly it feels more played out than the take that's endured for 60+ years.
Penciller Jonathan Lau works over layouts by Smith's old Green Arrow collaborator Phil Hester, and it is a little unclear how much of the art's strength comes from Hester, and how much can be attributed to Lau. The panel layouts are dynamic, and the storytelling is clear. Indeed, many panels are justifiably wordless, and the pace stays strong. The one sticky wicket is Lau's inconsistent grasp of anatomy. At times, the main character in particular appears elongated; it may be the trench coat that gums up the works, because at other times his characters are strong and clean. The colors, provided by Ivan Nunes, sit directly atop Lau's pencils, and though they are competent, they lack an air of moodiness that the character craves.
Overall, I will read the next issue, and presumably the one after based solely on Smith's previous work, and the strength of the opening sequence of this issue. If Smith and Lau can recapture the dynamic inherent in those pages, then Dynamite has a strong run on a classic character on hand. As it stands, the second half of the book may appeal more to Smith's fanbase than to the Hornet's, though it feels a little bit like Smith spinning his wheels and trying to bring the book into his comfort zone. While definitely not perfect, it's enough of a hook to have gained at least one reader for the foreseeable future.
Final Breakdown: On the whole, the analysis seems to be 2-1 with a guarded chance at 3-0 if later issues win Lan over. The team consensus demonstrates positivity for the art of Hester and Lau. While David admired some of Smith’s restraint and George appreciated the well-chosen silent panels, Lan was less sold on the humor. Granted, it’s only the first issue, but it looks like our group finds the potential for an entertaining series in the new Green Hornet.
See an extended exclusive preview of Green Hornet #1 by clicking here.