Review: Green Hornet Vol. 2: Birth of Villain

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MarkWaidGreenHornetVol2This volume has a back story that has been heard before: a rich man dons a costume along with his sidekick. Together they pair up their different skills to fight crime in the city. Britt Reid is the rich man and the alter ego of The Green Hornet. His sidekick is his Asian chauffeur, Kato, who is a mastermind of technology and martial arts.

Four years ago, I enjoyed the modern version of Green Hornet with Seth Green. Before the movie, all I knew about Green Hornet was that he and his sidekick wore masks. Now that  I have read Mark Waid’s take on Green Hornet, I see that movie was just fun and did not contain any of the comic’s depth. Sometimes movies just don’t carry the same power as the comics themselves. That’s why we continue reading comic books, isn’t it?

I was not able to read Volume 1: Bully Pulpit prior to Volume 2: Birth of a Villain, but  it didn’t take much to figure out what was going on. Through very questionable means, Green Hornet has gained control of several mob gangs and impressionable cops. The plot’s very intricate web involving communists, weapons, money, mob rings, power control, torture, murder, press, and police is so dense that it forms a solid mass of insanity. Several breaking points are reached as the characters that Green Hornet has become involved with begin to unravel and cause some pretty horrific consequence.

I could follow the plot, but if I had started with Volume 1, I might have kept a better track of the characters. At one point the story became really confusing; it was hard to tell who was framing whom, who was trying to kill whom.

This is the first time I have read a Mark Waid story so I was not very prepared for how deeply this comic would affect me. Everything I just described are elements of a pulp fiction, but this story was so much than that. It was a story where consequences were not just empty words. A story about a man who can be clever but blind to the hell that he wrought. Elements of pride, arrogance, shame, fear, and false hope are just the tip of what made this such a great run. Mark Wait turned a pulp-fiction, cartoonish character into someone that would give  a person pause. The Green Hornet is cunning and brutally ruthless. Without Kato, without the loss of an innocent person, how far would Green Hornet go? He had every imaginable dark power that a city can hold right on his fingertips: mobs, guns, and money. He could have taken over the city all in the name of justice.

That kind of ethical questions are very similar to Batman. The question is what really separates the hero from the villains? In this case, however, Green Hornet does not have any adversaries that are blatantly villainous like the Joker. Whatever decisions he makes are of his own accord and his own experience. Even the police aren’t on high moral ground here.

For fun, I looked up some stuff and found this on the internet. I am looking forward to collecting Batman 66 even more now knowing that Kevin Smith announced a new series during this year’s San Diego Comic Con: “Batman 66 meets Green Hornet” from DC comics.

For a pulp story, the aesthetic was not pulp-ish. It was what a modern take on a pulp could be. It gave a clear view of just how horrible that kind of story could be. Nothing is cartoonish or exaggerated in this arc. It is a story of a man who was too clever for his own good and the people who paid for his arrogance. It’s a transparent spotless window into a noir story. Nothing is obscuring the viewer from the horror and the danger of it all. Be prepared for lots of deaths. So many people died, most of them were unpredictable. The artwork reflected all the grittiness  and all the darkness.

This volume left me reeling but has also made me a new fan of Mark Waid’s work. This will be a series that I would recommend to all.

Two more notes:

  • The car, Black Beauty, is still amazing. One day, I will make a model of that car.
  • There is a really great interview between Mark Waid and Dan Abnett (Wild’s End) up on Bleeding Cool, here.

Green Hornet: Volume 2: Birth of  Villain is available from Dynamite November 12, 2014

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