Friday, February 08, 2013

“Robyn Hood” #1-5 (Zenescope)

RobynHood-01C-ArtWriter: Pat Shand | Story: Joe Brusha, Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco & Pat Shand | Artist: Dan Glasl (#1), Larry Watts (#2, 4, 5), Rob Dumo (#3) | Colors: Tom Mullin & Jason Embury (#1), Andrew Elder (#2), Nick Filardi, Adam Metcalfe (#3-5), Slamet Mujiono (#5), Omi Remalante Jr. (#5), Wesley Wong (#5)

In the lands of Myst a tryant rules the city of Bree with an iron fist leaving its citizens living in fear and terror. But all hope is not lost when one man takes the first steps to finding the one person who might save them all.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Robyn has had a troubled life for many years since her mother’s death. In and out of foster homes Robyn now finds herself transferred to a special high school filled with the rich and over-privileged. But when Robyn crosses one of the popular kids she will learn first-hand the extent of torture they are willing to go to against those who transgressed against them…

In Zenescopes Robyn Hood, the creative team has reinvented the classic fairy tale of the robbing-the-rich-to-feed-the-poor vagabond. It’s been receiving a lot of buzz of late, and with the first mini-series complete, now seemed like the perfect time to review it. I’m going to review these issues as if they were a collected edition, so be warned that there will be spoilers for early issues. Overall, I thought it was a pretty interesting series, one that offers all the Zenescope tropes (good and bad). Most importantly, though, is that they have used the classic premise to create something fresh and interesting. [The review has ended up a lot more in-depth than I anticipated…]

RobynHood-01-Interior1The series starts with Robyn’s Origin Story. Ok, the issue actually begins with her as a baby (and we should, by now, all know where babies come from). What’s unusual for Robyn, though, is that she’s on an altar and appears to be moments away from being sacrificed to some evil or another. A sword-wielding fellow named Shang (who I think has cropped up in other Zenescope titles) crashes the ritual, slays the hooded cultist and the scantily-clad female warrior (right), and saves the child.

After consulting the higher powers of the realms, Shang decides (for reasons quite escaping me) that the best place in our world to keep the child safe is this dilapidated home…

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Nobody ever said All-Powerful Beings were intelligent…

We then jump ahead a little bit and, unsurprisingly, learn that Robyn has not had the happiest of upbringings. She appears to have developed into a very troubled child, one who has a “particular skill set” that has steered her towards less-salubrious pastimes of, apparently, the criminal nature.

“I never had the luxury of the whole childhood innocence thing. Learned early on how messed up people can be. I use that.”

In fact, early on, she seems a little bit insane and even psychotic:

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I had a very different childhood to little Robyn. I feel so sheltered…

But, we quickly learn that her criminal ways are not as cavalier or anti-social as they may first appear. To begin with, she only seems to steal from bad-guys, and also for a good cause: her adopted mother is terminally ill, and Robyn steals to help pay for medicine (probably wouldn’t happen under the NHS or Canadian system… *cough*). We also get a glimpse of her decency after the above toe-stabbing incident:

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Robbing the Crooks to Give to the Poor

Robyn’s story back in the real world is interspersed with a few scenes in Myst. To begin with, they’re a little vague, telling of a hero who will come to fight for the people of Bree. This may be a result of the Real World scenes taking rather a long time to catch us up (some readers may not like how much of the first issue takes place in the real world, and the fact that Robyn isn’t yet the Hood).

It’s obvious it’ll be Robyn, but she’s still struggling with being an orphan in the foster care system. Not to mention also being at a high school “with the kind of class system that would inspire the French to start polishing their guillotines”. (Also, life tip: never piss off a talented lady wielding a lacrosse stick… *winces*) I took some issue with how Robyn’s left eye got messed up: she steals an asshole jock’s Bugatti, crashes is, and then he decides to take his revenge in a manner that seemed unlikely and utterly psychopathic:

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This whole scene, actually, makes me confused by Zenescope. They often do a good job of highlighting the many ways in which men mistreat and degrade women (never lightly, and the men always get their comeuppance – often at the end of a sword or other weapon), but then their covers are almost entirely exploitative… Not really sure how they square these two things. Or if it is just a case of “Men like to look at pretty, buxom ladies, so let’s put them on the cover; we’ll leave the storytelling all for inside…”? This particular piece of scum, Cal King, features again later in the series, as he is Robyn’s driving force for getting back to the real world. For revenge. He is one of the most repugnant characters I’ve ever read, in any fictional medium.

RobynHood-01-Interior6The dialogue from some of the characters in Myst can be rather twee, playing to the very-proper-fantasy-language trope, complete with arch syntax and clich├ęd phrases. I suppose it’s forgivable, though. I got used to it fairly quickly, anyway.

It was only at the very end of issue one, in fact, that Robyn finally catches a break. Of sorts… She is yanked into Myst with very little warning, and rather unceremoniously by the above lady in white.

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You’re in prison, and then you get pulled through the wall by a strange bint in white…

That’s enough preamble, I think, so let’s move on to the otherworld, super-heroine-with-a-bow bit…

Robyn finds herself trapped in the realm of Myst, in the area surrounding the city of Bree. Immediately after being pulled through the portal, she is attacked by King John’s men, and she finds she has an aptitude for combat. Also, she’s a little numb to violence…

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A refreshingly clear-spoken spirit-guide appears to her, fills her in on the political and social situation in Bree. She also informs Robyn of her destiny to save the land. Robyn is less than impressed: “Oh, bull. Don’t give me that Chosen One crap.” (She’s also having a little bit of difficulty accepting her new fate and location: “I am ninety-nine percent sure that someone drugged me in jail…”) Our heroine wanders off into Bree, and almost immediately gets into trouble, as she protects a young girl who, much like she used to be, is just trying to care for her sick mother. She also gets comfortable with the idea of her new role, and sees an opportunity.

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The third issue jumps us ahead by more than a year. She is now a wanted fugitive, hunted by the king’s men and bounty hunters. She also, along the way, replaced her sensible jeans-and-hoody ensemble for impractically sexy (I assume) leathers…

Nothing can prepare her – not a year’s worth of living as an outlaw, nor a dramatic wardrobe change – for when she is faced with the deadliest bounty hunter of all: Little John. Who makes quite a splash when he ambushes her at a spring…

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We’re introduced to the supreme dickishness that is King John, as Little John fills Robyn in on even more context. She decides to join Little John and the very small band of Merry Men, and enrolls in the tournament King John has put on for his own amusement. They decide to sneak into Bree “in cognito”…

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Subtle. Nobody will take a second look at anyone dressed like that, oh no…
Nevertheless, none of the tournament organizers will notice that Robyn is a woman.

There was a bit of a continuity problem that I caught: in issue #3, she says “After a month of training, of eating, of drinking, of sometimes even laughing with these people…”, and yet in the final issue, she says she’s only known Little John for three days… Oops.

In the final issue, Robyn’s presence in Bree finally brings everything to a tipping point. It doesn’t take much for the downtrodden people of the land to rise up, and the overthrow of the King is brutal (Robyn is rather sadistic at one point…). Naturally, the people also decide to burn their town to the ground. Despite, you know, still technically living there, and all their meager belongings probably being in the now-torched buildings. Hell hath no fury or logic like a mob of the oppressed feudal underclass…

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The majority of the final issue (26 pages) is, in fact, basically a brutal revenge fantasy. Robyn is returned to the real world, and is clearly not your typical heroine, here, as she wreaks all kinds of bloody vengeance against those who wronged her in issue #1. I was quite surprised at the apparently glee with which she took revenge on… well, basically everybody. They certainly deserved their comeuppance, but… Damn. Eli Roth-levels of brutality.

Overall, though, this was one of Zenescope’s better series of late. The story rattles along at a pretty good clip, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with next for Robyn (she will return next month, in a match-up against Red Riding Hood), and the very end of the series suggests there will be much more of her to come, tied into the wider Grimm Universe story. Shand’s writing is pretty good, with only a few clips of dialogue that were near-wince-worthy. The small amount of humor was well-placed (usually referring to Robyn’s distinctly modern vocal mannerisms being utterly out of place in Myst). The story’s pretty straight-forward, and it basically works rather well. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the character in the future.

It was an interesting choice to have the artists change a little bit for every issue (Zenescope seem to do this a lot), but my favorites were definitely the first and third.

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Robyn Hood #1 & Variants

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Robyn Hood #2 & Variant

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Robyn Hood #3 & Variant

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Robyn Hood #4 & Variant

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Robyn Hood #5 & Variant

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