Flashback Friday: Kato #2

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Kato #2

Written by Andre Parks
Art by Diego Bernard
Colours by PC Siquiera and Rainer Petter
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamite Entertainment (2010)

Say what you will about Kevin Smith, he knows his audience. From his popular podcast network to his decade-spanning film career, the haters and lovers have come out in droves to either protest or wave banners declaring him a genius.

Smith’s love of the comic book medium has never been in question, and he’s had opportunities to prove that in the industry. From his run on Daredevil and solo Batman titles, to the Green Hornet, he has left his mark on the comic world, even writing plots that would become canon later on. (He was the last writer working on a pre-New 52 book after the re-launch.)

In 2009 Smith was given leave to reboot The Green Hornet for Dynamite, and therein lie the beginnings of this book, Kato, in which the new version of the faithful butler is modernized by making the butler the daughter of the original Kato.

Kato #2 is back-story for the character re-imagined by Smith, Suyami Kato, the original Kato’s daughter. Issue two is a flashback that actually features the younger martial arts master very little, rather focusing on her father. (Bruce Lee’s character from the television show.) An assassin for the Yakuza has just killed his wife, and Kato is fighting said assassin throughout the issue. While this is happening Suyami is on some kind of date with a guy that, given what’s happening at her home, probably isn’t looking out for her best interests. The issue ends with Kato (the elder) defeated and making his home a pyre while Kato (the younger) clenches her fists in righteous indignant vengeance.

Although I’m picking up this story in the middle, it seems almost too formulaic. There’s nothing here that was surprising as far as the story-telling goes, nothing that makes me want to paw through back issues looking for the rest of the series. The art is okay, not nearly like what Dynamite is producing now, though Diego Bernard obviously did several studies of Bruce Lee to capture his look. The fight scenes look fine, though they seem to try too hard in an attempt to make up for a lack of compelling story. There are a lot of “hi yah’s” and “kee-yi’s”, but very little in the way of exposition.

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I’m all about re-imagining characters, but there is a point when it becomes too niche, especially with a character that, despite the Seth Rogen reboot, hasn’t really been that popular in forty years. Dynamite has had success in the last year or so with the rebooting of old franchises from the golden age of comics, such as Flash Gordon and The Shadow, so we know that they are capable (now at least) of doing a reboot in the right way. The characters of The Green Hornet and Kato, though dated, still have some value and, I believe, marketability, and could be extracted from the dollar boxes easily enough with the right creative team.

Perhaps they just stretched too far with this one. Perhaps it was a timing issue. Perhaps the poor reception of the film caused some backlash in the comic market. Maybe they should have asked Kevin Smith to write this one as well. Whatever the case, Kato #2 left a lot on the table, most of which I’d rather was taken by a studious butler back to the kitchen.

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