I didn't go to see the Green Hornet movie because I had heard too many signals that it really, really sucked. Now, I'll buy it on dvd and watch it despite that, because the Hornet is a comics (not just, but still) hero and I feel, well, obligated to collect the films depicting those. However, I'll gladly buy a comics collection of the Hornet's adventures if it's written by Mark Waid. So I did.
The Green Hornet Volume One: Bully Pulpit collects The Green Hornet #1-6. The story art is by Daniel Indro (first half) and Ronilson Freire (second half). The best part of the book, however, is Paolo Rivera's covers. They're crisp, and strong in composition and posing; he reminds me a bit of sort of a combination of Lee Weeks and David Mazzucchelli.
It's not good news when the covers are the best part of a collection, and while I am a Waid fan, I think he stumbles here. The basic idea is to show the Hornet – also newspaper publisher Britt Reid – getting a bit too full of himself and going a bit too far, both as the Hornet and as Reid.
The Hornet has a habit of corrupting criminals, making them his own employees so that he can use them in his own business, which unknown to the underworld is actually fighting crime, not enriching himself from it. Here, he and his crime-fighting companion – martial arts expert Kato – are chasing saboteurs who're targeting armament manufacturers' shipments, thus endangering America's effort to prepare itself for the looming war. At the same time, those captains of industry whose shipments are targeted are attempting to enlist Britt Reid as a political candidate for their Prosperity Party. His successes make Reid/the Hornet overconfident and sloppy, however, and as a result, he makes some grave errors – like falsely accusing an innocent man of being behind the bombings in Reid's newspaper, corrupting a heretofore clean cop as the Hornet.
Now, I don't think this sort of hubris/downfall story is all that unique in comics, but judging by his introduction, Waid seems to think so (unless he's being ironic). Either way, the story's not all that elegantly told. The interior art is passable, but it lacks the clean design of Rivera's covers, as well as the strong, elegant ink line that can make art interesting anyway. The fight scenes convey the action, but doesn't do so with any real sense of action, if you know what I mean. The figure drawing isn't dynamic enough, especially in the latter half of the collection with art by Freire, who also doesn't succeed with the main characters' faces – they basically look like they're not-quite out of school yet.
But it's not the art that sinks the book for me – well, great art could have saved it, but Waid can't escape blame for the story's ultimate failure. The basic narrative is easy enough to recognize: hero gets lured into a bad crowd and leaves his values and real friends behind for a while, until he wakes up and sets about making things right. Here, this is complicated by the hero both running a muckraking newspaper and running around beating up crooks – and also, distastefully, torturing them to get the information he wants. (It's actually pretty shameful that Abu Ghraib and "enhanced interrogations" haven't cured Waid – and others – from using this lazy writer's crutch. You really don't want to be on the same side as someone like Jonah Goldberg on this.) Nevertheless, the basic structure is pretty standard, and could have used some bells and whistles that it doesn't get, neither in the art nor the writing department.
Also, the real crooks behind the bombings (I won't reveal who they are here, but you'd be hard to put not to recognize them by the second chapter) have been given the same super power as the Joker in a certain overrated Batman movie: the ability to place bombs wherever they want to without anybody noticing them or the bombs, and also with the added bonus of being able to do so without anybody even bothering with following up on evidence pointing in their direction. In other words, Waid shirks on important plot points in a way that you can get away with in a superhero story because you can cover it up with dazzling superhero deeds; the Hornet, however, is supposed to be working within a somewhat more realistic universe, so this oversight damages the story's credibility.
And then, towards the end, the reader receives what is really a direct insult: a cliffhanger. The collection actually ends on a cliffhanger.
I mean, come on! A cliffhanger? In a trade paperback? That's just rude, plain and simple.
I can't recommend this book; it's readable, but it has too many flaws. Check out for example Waid's old Flash and JLA stories instead, or his Daredevil. Me, I'll be checking out the movie when it comes to my fave second-hand dvd/cd shop – again, out of a sense of obligation – but I won't feel obliged to check out the second volume of this series.