Rule 63 in Sherwood
The Robin Hood stories have always had a strong following. There’s something about taking from the rich and giving to the poor that resonates well with the majority of folks…can’t imagine why. The myth of the honorable thief mixed with an altruistic nature and forbidden love is hard for anyone to pass up. It’s the story that has it all, which is why seeing someone hit it with an alternate vision is such fun. It allows us to separate ourselves from the tales as we’ve heard them before [whether Flynn, Bedford, Costner, Elwes, or Crowe are your seminal take (We can all agree it’s not Crowe, right?)] and apply the touchstones of it in new ways (i.e., stealing from the rich and giving to the poor could be the result of trying to trick a populace into support, hiding your true self of being altruistic, and all the best things end up lining the rich boy’s son’s pockets). It’s a technique that can be very useful; changing minor parts allows the author to play us against the standard narrative and opens the world to incredible changes that can not only re-imagine a world that hasn’t been updated in a century or so, but broaden its message for the modern reader as well as being very entertaining.
Simon Birks has taken our beloved rogue and flipped the script a bit, playing more on the loner aspect of the character without the “Merry Men” to provide comfort and camaraderie, turning Robyn into a survivor loath to trust others. It sets up a world that we ought to be familiar with: the promise of something perhaps a touch darker than the often jocular antics of the titular character. The re-purposing of the known characters is a good tactic for this kind of story. Tuck is here, but he is not the solid, jolly confidant that we’re used to, but rather a man with secrets who trusts Robyn to take on small jobs when needed, but not with the truth of what’s behind them. There’s another twist that I won’t spoil here that is layered in very gently and with sanguine subtlety, so I’ll let you enjoy it, as well. These changes lead the tone to feel a bit more like Hannah which is quite fun when applied to this old chestnut, as our protagonist is certainly young. I really enjoy the writing; it’s fairly straightforward on the whole, so when there’s a detour, it’s not only very noticeable, but it affects you when you’re stopped by it. There’s a genuine wonder behind this work, a love of the material and a strong sense of the path that he’s taking it.
I’m in love with the artwork by Ege Avci. It reminds me foremost of Zac Gorman’s whimsical style, but if it were aimed towards a little older reader, trading its nostalgia and innocence for a slightly more realistic fantasy. I love the richness and depth of the color palette and the great flow of the panels, every one dynamic and exciting to look at. This is a book that moves you through it. The pacing comes visually, launching you through the high-tension moments while arresting you with those sideways sorts of questions that I mentioned above. The text and art work very well together, and it’s evident that the team is one that responds well to each other and the whole is very much larger than the sum of its parts. The final page holds a surprise that is almost anticipated, but nonetheless awesome when it shows up. It’s the largest departure from the origin in the issue, but with the gentle ramping we’ve had up until that point, it doesn’t feel tacked on or out of place. It’s fun, and I’m very intrigued to see what happens next.
With the trend of reboots and three-boots (Thank god Marvel is saving Sony’s a**. Good luck, DC.), retreading the same old tales can feel tropey and insipid, but Blue Fox Comics‘ team knows that this new take on the Prince of Thieves is why we’re drawn to the promise of them as often. This is the work that proves the rule that with a dedicated vision, known quantities can be turned into something new and wondrous without being retreads.
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