Here’s the deal with Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet. Years ago, he wrote a screenplay for a new Green Hornet film. To my knowledge, as soon as the Seth Rogen film went into production, deals were made to adapt Smith’s screenplay into a comic book for Dynamite, who also created a few other Hornet books around this time and spun even more out from this. From what I’ve heard on Smith’s podcasts (can’t remember which one), Phil Hester broke things down and would then send the scripts to Smith who would look them over and make some changes. I believe he’s doing the same type of thing with Six Million Dollar Man, also at Dynamite.
I’ve been curious about the results of this somewhat unique collaboration, especially after finally watching the Rogen film and liking it. It’s interesting that the story is somewhat similar with original Hornet Britt Reid’s son taking over for his dad after living a life of leisure with a new, younger Kato. In this case, the new Kato is the daughter of the original Kato who is himself still around. In this world, Green Hornet and Kato basically cleaned up Century City and retired. That’s a pretty interesting concept, especially when you mentally compare this concept to another familiar one about a rich dude and his pal running around fighting crime that Smith has also written in comic book form.
It’s your basic “becoming a hero to live up to your father” story and there really aren’t that many twists and turns as the story progresses even with that interesting “we beat crime” starting point. The bad guy, who goes by Black Hornet, also turns out to be an angry young man with father issues. There was absolutely not attempt to mask the villain’s identity as we’re only introduced to one character who even could be the bad guy.
I think I liked the second volume better because it’s got more action and the story moves along at a better clip, so you don’t really notice that you’re reading a story you’ve read before. There’s also a really fun elements where the bad guy ties Kato and the Hornet to the giant type writer on top of Reid’s newspaper building. I love a good death trap and I felt like this one was earned as you see the typewriter throughout the entire thing and then the gun gets fired towards the end. Good stuff.
While reading this story, I kept thinking of how this would have worked as a movie and, I’ll admit, it’s one I would have liked to see. But, it clearly does something that a film couldn’t: keep Bruce Lee as a character. Lee played Kato in the TV series before becoming the biggest action star in the world and then suddenly passing away. Obviously, this would have been difficult to work into the film and I even wonder if this was a changed element from the original script in changing it to a comic. So, yes, it’s a script turned into a movie, but it’s a comic book story that could not happen in the same way on screen. It’s not the actual Bruce Lee of course, but it’s a drawing of Lee as Kato in the beginning and then him as an older guy in the later issues. You could have replaced him with a different actor in flashback scenes of course, but I still like it because it’s Lee in a strange way.
Which brings me to another complaint I had about the book: the dialog. There were actually two aspects of the words that got on my nerves a bit. First off, a TON of Bruce Lee’s dialog from Enter The Dragon was lifted wholesale and dropped in this book. I get that you’re making the connection between Kato and the legendary figure Lee became thanks to his philosophy — and maybe it’s because I literally watched ETD two days before reading the book — but it just came off kind of weak to me. The other aspect of the dialog that bugged me a bit was how Smithian it is. I know this is something that a lot of people dislike about Smith’s writing, many times the characters sound exactly like Smith talks. Seeing as how I’m a big fan of his and listen to several of his podcasts, I’ve become probably overly familiar with the way he speaks. Every time young Reid adds “bitch” at the end of a sentence, it just sounds like Smith talking to me. I get that he’s a socialite and probably speaks flippantly, but I really had a hard time divorcing the writer’s voice from that of the character, which took me out of the story.
I kind of hate to come off so negative with this review, but I like to frame it in my mind by thinking that this is basically a huge budget action flick that does not concern itself with the reality of actor availability or budget. With that in mind, I enjoy it as a fun romp, the kind of thing you’d stop and watch while flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t think that’s enough to keep these two books in my collection, but I am glad I picked them up on the cheap at the hotel ballroom comic convention near my house last weekend. Reading this also makes me want to check out the original TV series and the Matt Wagner Year One series. I forgot from watching the Rogen film that the concept is actually different from Batman because the Hornet poses as a mobster himself muscling out the other guys for territory. That’s a rad idea and I’d be curious to see how other people handle this. The fact that one is from the same people who did Batman and stars Bruce Lee and the other is written by the guy who wrote the amazing Mage series’, also helps.