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The Green Hornet
By Philip Schweier

Jul 3, 2014 - 11:53

Publisher(s): Dynamite Entertainment
Writer(s): Mark Waid
Penciller(s): Ronilson Freire
Inker(s): Ronilson Freire
Cover Artist(s): Paolo Rivera


Most limited series run 6-8 chapters, to hit that sweet spot on the price point of the eventual trade paperback. Once in a while, they’ll run 12, making an even year’s worth of comics. So I was a bit flummoxed when Dynamite’s recent Green Hornet series by Mark Waid and Ronilson Freire ended after 13 issues. Rather odd, I thought.

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Then I read the entire series in one sitting, and it all made sense:
it’s a serial in 13 chapters, just like the cliffhangers of old. In 1940, the Green Hornet was featured in two such productions, The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Again.

The serials of the 1930s and ‘40s are much akin to serialized TV shows of today:
an overall story lasting the entire run of series, but somewhat broken down into three or four acts. Writer Mark Waid employs the same approach in his recent Green Hornet series.

The first act introduces the players, including the Voice, a German saboteur who incites terror and chaos. As the authorities attempt to discover his real identity, Britt Reid (alias the Green Hornet) meets with three other leading businessmen who believe he would be an ideal candidate to run for mayor on behalf of their Prosperity party. With a great deal of success behind his alter ego, and the police no closer to apprehending him, Reid decides, “Why not?”

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But life is not easy for a newspaper publisher with civic responsibilities, who also chooses to masquerade as one of the city’s most wanted in an effort to bring down other racketeers in the name of law and order. It’s a tough facade to maintain, and when his partner Kato feels Reid’s “disguise” is dangerously close to the criminals he’s fighting, Kato leaves.

As Reid announces his candidacy for mayor, the identity of the Voice is revealed. But by then the damage is done. The Daily Sentinal has accused an innocent of being the Voice, ruining his career and pushing him toward suicide. Reid’s mayoral campaign is stillborn.

Act II features the eventual reunion of the Green Hornet and Kato, as they decide their work is too much for two men. A third party is enlisted in their war on crime:
Lenore Casey, Reid’s one-time secretary. After the Voice fiasco, Reid has been removed as publisher of the Sentinal, but he’s found a new home in the form of radio station WBR.

Thanks to her research, it soon becomes clear that Reid’s three Prosperity party friends were more involved with the Voice than initially thought. They played the role of victims to hide the fact that they were selling vital war material to the enemy.

Meanwhile, a police detective by the name of Dugan has also become involved in the Hornet’s shenanigans. Once he was an honest cop, until the Hornet convinced him to accept a bribe in exchange for helping him escape a police cordon. The money came in handy with his wife’s mounting medical bills, but his conscience got the better of him and Dugan returned the money. Now, with Britt Reid’s radio station the hottest thing in town, it’s prepared to lend the Dugan’s a hand. Tragically, it comes too late, as Mrs. Dugan lies dead from a gunshot from the detective’s own gun.

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As the series heads into Act III, Dugan’s remorse over his wife’s shooting sends him closer to the brink of self-destruction, culminating in a final act of insanity for which the Hornet feels responsible. But there’s no time for self-pity, as Gesicht, the German master criminal, intends to release the Third Reich’s worst on the city.

It’s a war weary Hornet who weighs the merits of his hard-fought battle against corruption in the city of Chicago. It remains to be seen if we have seen the last of the Green Hornet. I, for one, hope not, as I am quite the fan. However, I can’t say I completely appreciated Waid’s version. One issue in particular seemed nothing more than filler – and bad filler, at that – and a few of the supporting characters failed to ring true to my eyes.

Granted, the character is a tough nut to crack. He hasn’t enjoyed the popularity of Superman or Spider-Man. Perhaps that gives some writers a wider latitude to stray from “the true path.” Also, for many, his pulp-era setting makes him a bit of a dinosaur in today’s world. Personally, that’s one of the things I enjoy about these older characters. In was a different time, when our fathers and grandfathers were kids. Not better, just different, and despite all our progress, I sometimes feel we lost something along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return to those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.


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