Writer: David T. Hazan
Artist: Shane Connery Volk
Colorist: Luca Romano
Letterer: Jormette Gil
Editor: Brian Hawkins
Book Designer: Diana Bermudez
Publisher: Madcave Studios
Warning: Contains spoilers
Synopsis: “In this twisted medieval noir, the Sheriff of Nottingham hunts a serial killer with a penchant for tax collectors. The Sheriff’s investigation makes him the target of England’s most nefarious power-brokers. That’s to say nothing of the Merry Men, terrorists lurking amongst the trees of Sherwood, led by an enigma known only as “Hood.”
Most people know the story of Robin Hood and his merry men of thieves. Many books and movies regale the tales of the noble archer from Sherwood Forest stealing from the rich and giving to the poor while fighting the corrupt King John and his enforcer, the Sheriff of Nottingham, England. Most retellings of the Robin Hood folklore also display Robin’s romance with the fair lady Marion. “Nottingham,” like the movies and books before it, is indeed a retelling of the Robin Hood mythos but with a twist – Robin Hood is not the protagonist.
Enter the protagonist: Everard Blackthorne, the Sheriff of Nottingham who is tasked with investigating the slew of tax collectors being murdered by the Merry Men. In a detective story told in medieval fashion, the characters we once knew from those tales are not the same.
The Sheriff is a veteran of the Crusades who is driven to get to the bottom of the tax collector murders by any means necessary, Lady Marion is an opportunist who has an agenda of her own even at Robin Hood’s expense. Robin Hood is a fanatic who, like the Sheriff, will do anything to accomplish his plan in overthrowing King John. As I write this, I realized that David Hazan wrote a cat and mouse story in which the Sheriff and Robin Hood are two sides of the same coin due to their drive to accomplish their respective goals.
I feel that David Hazan’s writing executed a twist that brilliantly makes the story work. It inverts the rich versus poor motif from the Robin Hood folklore to create a reflection of human nature. In my opinion, this story almost makes a black and white situation into a gray area. Who is really corrupt? Is it the rich and their tax collectors who are taking a lot of hard earned money from commoners or is it the Merry Men who are using terrorist acts against the noblemen to achieve their agenda?
Several parts of the story made me ask those questions. There was a part where the Sheriff reminded Marion that her father had attempted to assassinate King John only to flee to France and leave the woman impoverished. A little bit after that, Marion smugly implied to Robin that she had certain relations with the murdered tax collector due to “financial needs.” Another part that triggered those questions was when Robin Hood killed Will Scarlet, his follower in fear that he might let slip his plans which involve overthrowing King John.
The art done by artist Shane Connery Volk and colorist Luca Romano in this comic gives a gritty and ominous vibe which matches well with Hazan’s writing. One of the effective things about the story’s art is that it has no closure. For instance, the first part of the story shows Will Scarlet brutally killing tax collectors while uttering the credo of the Merry Men in each panel. This shows the brutality of Robin Hood’s insurgency. Another thing I found profound about the art is Blackthorne’s design. In almost every panel, there are thick black lines that make it look as if Blackthorne has tears. In addition, the way the Sheriff’s face is drawn and colored reminds me of the 1000 yard stare that war veterans get. I mention this because since Blackthorne mentioned his experiences during the Crusades, I thought that he had a face of a man who had done and seen so much.
The lettering by Jormette Gil makes “Nottingham no. 1” seems like an action movie. The lettering was seen in the part where Will Scarlet made noise on the roof got my attention like it did the Sheriff’s. Additionally, the sword fight had lettering which made me hear Blackthorne’s and Scarlet’s blades clashing. And the lettering during the torture panels invoked pain when Blackthorne is seen beating up Scarlet.
I recommend that you read this comic since it is a unique retelling of the legend of Robin Hood. The story is told in the point-of-view from a man who is often portrayed as the villain or an enforcer of a corrupt king. It’s that good of a story, especially if you enjoy medieval tales or the story of Robin Hood.
“Nottingham no.1” is available now at your local comic book shop or wherever comic books are sold. According to the Mad Cave Studios Twitter account, the comic has also sold out and the publisher is going forward with a second printing.