While I didn’t much care for “Green Hornet” #3, this annual taking place during it retroactively makes me like it a little more. Sometimes, writing a new story that expands on the events of a previously told story doesn’t work or winds up feeling forced, but “Green Hornet Annual” #1 manages to add extra character beats that work and seem like they would have worked a little better if included in the original story. While that issue felt rushed with the turnaround of Britt Reid, Jr. trying to avenge his father’s death, this annual shows that the rage was there, but the process wasn’t as immediate as it seemed previously.
Using flashbacks to a Green Hornet adventure from decades ago, the annual sets up a supporting character from the younger Reid’s past, Dante, his former trainer in kickboxing. Reid’s stopover at Dante’s gym, asking his old coach for help in getting back in shape to avenge his father’s death, is a necessary step before his ill-advised descent into the underground of Century City. Having another person, someone who seems to have some idea of what he’s talking about, tell Reid that he’s acting a fool adds to the tension of his quest. That Dante has his own past with the Green Hornet and Kato is a nice touch.
Reid’s single-mindedness is well established, but plays out in a somewhat cliched and typical manner. While the added scene with Dante gives his thirst for revenge a little more space and shows he didn’t just dive in thoughtlessly, he still doesn’t come off as a character with any depth. He’s a caricature, a type, one that we’ve seen before many times.
The flashbacks provide some needed background on both the Green Hornet and Kato, specifically how the Hornet viewed crimefighting. While the flashback establishes Dante’s added connection to Reid’s world, it also shows the influence on Kato and how much he’s learned over the years. Then, he’s presented as hot-headed and eager to use violence, while the Hornet is more thoughtful.
Michael Netzer and Josef Rubenstein’s art on the flashbacks is dynamic and fun with the use of Benday dots for coloring. They give those scenes a look and feel of an old comic, especially some of the more goofy details like young Dante’s clothing. It makes for a good contrast to Carlos Rafael’s art on the contemporary story, which is much slicker and attempts realism more. The comparison sometimes works against Rafael, whose art is more stilted and awkward, while the coloring goes too far in adding layers and fades.
For fans of the current “Green Hornet” series, this Annual adds an interesting and necessary part of the story, showing what happened between some of the scenes of issue three. Anyone thinking that this is a chance to give the book a try, though, may want to look elsewhere.