By David Liss, Kewber Baal and Adriano Augusto

Dynamite’s Green Hornet returns with the new series “Reign of the Demon” and, unfortunately, the first issue is a mediocre attempt at keeping this franchise alive. Despite being fairly well written with decent enough artwork, it just doesn’t do the Green Hornet justice, whether it’s an ongoing series or a four-issue arc like this one. Instead of taking it to another level, Green Hornet and his sidekick Kato come across as third-rate versions of Batman and Robin. The storyline is lackluster at best and it isn’t just the heroes that fail to be interesting, it’s the villains too. Bad guys that are described as threatening ought to be, otherwise why are we even reading? Although the series is literally titled in order to showcase the villain, it just doesn’t meet the standard we’ve come to expect from modern comics. There’s a lot of competition out there, and a lot of newness, so a retro character like Green Hornet has got to be something more than this to prove itself worthy of the new release rack.

Renowned novelist, David Liss, is a professional writer through and through, but this book doesn’t show his strengths. As of issue #1 there’s the makings of a foundation for what may turn out to be a pretty good story, but it lacks a hook. So far, strong dialogue and mildly interesting moments add up to a mostly disappointing storyline without any good reason to anticipate the second issue. Sure, it feels like a Green Hornet story, but that’s clearly not enough. Where’s the fresh perspective? Where’s the impact? Not in the first issue, that’s for sure. What we have here is a missed opportunity to introduce the villain while also convincing us he’s a threat to be reckoned with. Instead the story is spread out over more even ground, whereas some instability would have been more appealing. Liss could have afforded to shake it up a little as opposed to playing it safe. Instead of meeting his match, or facing his greatest challenge ever, it would appear Green Hornet is merely facing his next challenge. Been there, done that.

The artwork, by artist Kewber Baal and colorist Adriano Augusto, is once again technically professional, but without significant content or scenes where the illustration can really shine. You can feel it now and again, a kind of pent-up creative energy spilling over into panels without much to them, as if that energy had been reserved for a scene that never panned out. Even the reveals are subdued and small, rather than played up for maximum effect, and it’s hard to say who is to blame. The book feels like a drama, when it’s advertised as a masked vigilante adventure, which is a disservice to the art team. It’s a noble effort, working with what you’ve been given, but there isn’t anything in this first issue of note, at least nothing we haven’t seen from Green Hornet before. It can’t be said enough that, for all the talent on this book, readers are bound to be — perhaps unexpectedly — underwhelmed.

This is an iconic character with a legacy that needs to be upheld and built on. If you were to read this same story from a Green Hornet comic decades ago, you might think it’s just fine. But by today’s standards, expectations will never be met without at least trying to break the mold.

About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.