Pullbox Reviews: Nottingham #6- A new arc as the Sheriff’s hunt for Hood continues…

In this twisted medieval noir, the Sheriff of Nottingham hunts a serial killer with a penchant for ta collectors. The Sheriff’s investigation makes him the target of England’s most nefarious powerbrokers. That’s to say nothing of the Merry Men, terrorists lurking amongst the trees of Sherwood, led by an enigma known only as “Hood”.

In Nottingham’s first story arc, the folks at Mad Cave did a pretty solid job of establishing that this title had nothing to do with the Robin Hood you thought you knew. While there’s more than a fair bit of robbing from the rich, the poor may be getting the short straw from Hood and his Merry Men (check a review for the first issue here) as the always loathsome Guy of Gisbourne tightens his grip on the people to recoup those losses. As for the chivalrous, swashbuckling rogue we’re familiar with, there isn’t much of him visible in the Mad Cave version.

In the second story arc, starting with issue #6, the Hood’s identity has been outed as Robin of Locksley and the Sheriff of Nottingham has doubled down in his efforts to capture the ruthless outlaw. And right there is the main difference, both in tone and actual story content, between Nottingham and the traditional Robin Hood tales. David Hazan has spun the familiar and turned it into a crime noir, with the normally villainous Sheriff playing the part of the grizzled investigator working to bring a killer to justice. In his way are the regular list of archetypes, including the politically conniving Gisbourne, badass femme fatale Marion, and the ever unlikeable mama’s boy Prince John. All are forces in their own right… okay, maybe not John… and all have their own motivations that have little or nothing to do with helping the poor downtrodden of England. I think it all works because Hazan uses dialogue to great effect, steering clear of the pitfalls in clinging too tight to ye Olde English dialects. The people in these books could have easily stepped out of a Guy Ritchie movie, if Guy Ritchie ever got it in him to try a hand at another medieval setting (personally, I enjoyed the hell out of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but I might have been the only one).

Visually and stylistically, I can’t possibly see how Nottingham could have been done any other way as the team of Shane Connery Volk & Luca Romano keep the world gritty and unsettling. Volk’s lines are messy and his character designs are exaggerated. His approach gives the reader a great indication of who these people are by letting their nature show in response to their environment. We see the Sheriff & know that this scarred, hulking man is tough as nails and as subtle as a sledgehammer. That groundwork is picked up by Romano, who colors the world with deep shadows, sharp contrasts, and very few bright tones. The illustrations & colors combined are like the Power Rangers forming their Zords into the meanest, dirtiest, mangiest Dragonzord around… just the thing when you’re building a world like Nottingham, where every corner is hiding someone looking for a soft spot to stick a dagger & twist. It’s not meant to be beautiful or appealing, it’s just supposed to get the dirtiest of jobs done.

Rounding out the overall look of Nottingham, letterer Justin Birch keeps things pretty simple. Dialogue is laid out with a no-nonsense approach so as not to crowd the panels or block out the art. Not to say that Birch has no style, he’s just smart enough to know when to put it to use. That’s mainly in the sound effects (Onomatopoeia) of Nottingham, with a heavy emphasis on acts of violence. If you can’t come up with some idea of where “SPLORT” might be useful, you’re not trying hard enough.

Over the years, Mad Cave Studios has earned a place on my shelves as they work to cover every genre of comic imaginable. Not happy with that, they’re starting to cross genres and continue to challenge tropes. Nottingham is a fantastic example of how to deconstruct expectations, and everyone involved deserves the very highest of fives.

Final Score: 12/13

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