Writer: David Hazan
Artist: Shane Connery Volk
Colorist: Luca Romano
Letterer: Joamette Gil
The legend of Robin Hood never dies. Its been incarnated as kids books, a Disney movie, adult movies, BBC TV Series, and superhero knockoffs. (I’m not hating on Green Arrow, I am just speaking the truth.) What I haven’t seen, though, is an incarnation where the hero and villain frame is removed, leaving history and politics. Nottingham fills the void.
Nottingham stars the familiar characters: Robin and the Merry Men, Sheriff Blackthorne, and Maid Marion. I am sure the Friar will appear shortly. What’s new is the tone.
Robin Hood leads a movement in support of Richard the Lionheart. The Merry Men murder all of the tax collectors by the end of the first few pages. Sheriff Blackthorne, freshly returning from the Crusades, works to catch the political criminals, not out of corruption, but because its his job to stop murder. Marion behaves very differently than her chaste representations in the past. Nottingham deals in medieval politics, where no side is necessarily good or evil.
Most of the story follows the Sheriff’s case, feeling more like Law and Order, than a Robin Hood retelling. He investigates a murder scene, interrogates People of Interest, and even serves warrants, yelling out who is he before breaching the front doors. I honestly quite enjoyed these portions of the issue. The mystery of the case pulls the reader in and moves the story along. The political sides prove to be less monolithic than one would expect as different actors make their own decisions.
Marion serves as the second most occurring character. Instead of being dependent on Robin, who will not marry her until King Richard returns, she makes her own dealings with the power players in town. This added agency makes Marian a wild card and adds much more depth than the standard maiden cliché possess.
Robin, while usually being the titular hero in these tales, takes a bit of a backseat in Nottingham. He certainly makes a splash at the end, though, and he proves to be more than a chaotic good thief, but a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. A bit of a fool, too, but every good character is in some way.
The art for Mad Cave stands out with a distinctive style. Having also seen Villainous, a style seems to be emerging for the publisher. The style feels unique and fresh. Volk excels at drawing characters who carry the burdens of their lives in a palpable way. They are war-weary, and their burdens make them relatable.
The colors by Romano fit most fantasy comics, except for the dynamic reds and greens. The two colors reoccur constantly, even in the lettering. This serves to not only remind the reader that they are reading Robin Hood, but brings a vibrant energy to the issue.
Verdict: Buy! Nottingham manages to bring a new take on an old tale, focusing on the history and not the myth, and in doing so, elevating the narrative. A must read for the adult who grew up loving the hero.