Writer: David Hazan
Penciler/Inker: Shane Connery Volk
Colorist: Luca Romano
Letterer: Joamette Gil
The world needs more medieval noirs. Jaded heroes investigating murders and fighting with swords. Nottingham fills that niche perfectly. Set during the time of Robin Hood and the Crusades, Nottingham clears its own path in the lore. The characters carry more legends than the traditional Disney tale.
King Richard, the Lionheart, waged an expensive war in the Holy Lands. In his absence, Prince John consolidated power and money. Waves of taxes erode the serfs’ lives. Though these two figures deeply influence the motives of Nottingham’s characters, they do not appear.
Sir Robert of Locksley, aka Robin Hood, leads a resistance movement against John, in the name of Richard. He and his Merry men murder tax collectors and those he views as corrupt. Marian sleeps beside him and others. Instead of the simple maiden and damsel, Marian makes her own decisions. She uses her agency and weapons proficiency for herself, not a man. The Sheriff Everard Blackthorne, normally portrayed as greedy, veers into a way more complex territory. Wounded in battle for King Richard, he now merely works to maintain order and solve crimes. He possesses little affection for the rich nobility.
The comic starts with the Sheriff investigating a spree of murders of tax collectors. Red hair is found at the scene, so the Sheriff takes a medieval swat team to round up the gingers and question them. The Sheriff finds his man, and he takes him in with extreme prejudice. Robin knows the Sheriff can break anyone eventually, and he must stop the interrogation before his Merry Man sings. Robin succeeds, but the Sheriff only gets closer as Robin gets more desperate.
The trio play a deadly game, as the Sheriff investigates the Merry Men. The closer he gets, the dirtier Robin plays, willing to kill innocents and Merry Men for the sake of his mission to purge England for the return of King Richard. His message of stealing from the rich to give to the poor rallies the commoners, who side more and more with him, regardless of his actions. Soon, the Sheriff faces a revolution, if he can’t cut off the head of the snake by finding out who Robin is.
The Nottingham story excels at flipping the myth on its head. While many gritty reimaginings flub it up by making everybody a bad person, Nottingham manages to make the different leads sympathetic. They all performed horrific acts and made horrible mistakes, but they learn and evolve from their actions. David Hazan’s tale flows organically with no forced beats or out of character decisions. You sink into his writing like a warm bath and soak it in.
Volk creates a a world drenched in dirt and blood. The grizzled face of the Sheriff always emotes clearly, and the sword fights remain engaging and not confusing or boring. Romano’s coloring uses rich reds, not just for blood. The brilliant bold reds, set in a dark, stony world, create gorgeous pops of color, particularly for the red headed characters.
Verdict: Buy! Mad Cave seemed to explode onto the scene with this comic, selling out of its debut in days. The book lives up to the hype. An adult take on Robin Hood that revitalizes the story and leaves you wanting more.