The Middle Ground #38: Investigating Dynamite’s Hornet Stings
So, the Green Hornet movie surprised critics by not only winning the weekend box office but, more importantly, not sucking (Or, at least, not sucking as badly as some feared; I know there are still some critics out there). If you surprised yourself by enjoying the film and wanting more, here’s a quick and easy guide to navigating Dynamite’s Green Hornet comics.
Ignore The Spin-Offs
It sounds cruel – and it is, I guess – but if you’re diving into the confusing world of Dynamite’s many, many Hornet titles (I still think there are way too many, but that’s an argument no-one really wants to have with me), it’s the first thing you should bear in mind. With six ongoing titles (The Green Hornet, The Green Hornet: Year One, The Green Hornet Strikes, The Green Hornet: Kato, The Green Hornet: Kato – Origins, and The Green Hornet Golden Age Remastered; there are also minis running at the same time, like The Green Hornet: Blood Ties), it’s worth knowing which titles are “necessary” and which can be avoided until you’re addicted, and the first lesson is “Anything with ‘Kato’ in the title can be safely avoided.” Also, Golden Age Remastered won’t exactly leave a hole in your heart if you skip it for now.
Three Generations of Hornet
With its three “core” titles (The Green Hornet, Strikes and Year One), Dynamite has added a legacy aspect to the character – Something that the movie also did (Weirdly enough, Hornet, adapted by Phil Hester from Kevin Smith’s unused movie script, also had a hard-partying son taking the mantle from his dead father. I wonder if that was something the movie producers insisted on, or merely something that survived numerous rewrites?) – by showing Hornets in three different time periods – The 1940s (Year One), present day (Hornet) and near future (Strikes) – and showing the identity belonging to different people. It’s a smart move that gives each book its own feel, allows the writers to chart their own courses without worrying about each other, and creates a sense of history and importance around the character, even if the books seem to be unconnected so far.
My favorite of the three is probably Strikes, by The Lone Ranger‘s Brett Matthews and Ariel Padilla, which offers up a paranoia-filled take that de-pulps the concept without destroying it, although any pulp removed undoubtedly ended up in Matt Wagner and Aaron Campbell’s wonderful Year One, which is the ideal book for anyone who’s enjoyed Wagner’s Batman books or Sandman Mystery Theater. Hornet offers up a more hard-edged take on a lot of the same ideas as the movie, and has just started a new direction with Hester taking over the complete writing chores now that Smith’s story is done, but well worth checking out nonetheless.
(There’s always been somewhat of a generational idea to the Hornet; Now Comics had the nephew of the original Hornet take up the costume in their 1980s run, and the Hornet has long been established as a descendant of the Lone Ranger, another Dynamite property.)
Where To Start
It depends on what you want, really. Strikes doesn’t have a collection yet, but Year One and Hornet both have collected editions that are worth picking up – Year One may be more of an acquired taste, but it’s also the better book, in my opinion. There are also digital versions of each series on Comixology to sample. Just don’t expect any comic to be able to replicate Seth Rogen’s somewhat terrifying bellow of a laugh.