Last time on Nottingham

When we last left the not so friendly confines of Nottingham, all hell had broken loose. The Sheriff had another murder to investigate and this one happened in the confines of a cell. Will Scarlet had been relieved of part of his skull with a blunt object without anyone seeing anything. Supposedly.

The Sheriff didn’t know what was worse. That a man had been killed from inside the prison or that from all evidence, it looked like an inside job. Of course, it also cost them a potentially valuable informant about the Hood and his Merry Men. None of which was good. And now it was up to the Sheriff to sort it all out. Before his head was on the block as well.

(Writers note: For best effect, play the .wav files when you come to them)

Law and Order Nottingham

With the assumption that this was done with the cooperation of someone inside the prison, the Sheriff had his right-hand man Alan Dale gather all those men who were on duty that night. The investigations would start there. First off was Godwin, the Dungeon Guard. He was supposed to be watching the prisoners that night. It was his weapon that was found with the body and for some reason, he had the Dungeon keys.

The Dungeon Guard

His tale was that he had been standing guard, as always, when he felt a presence behind him, and the feel of someone’s breath on his neck. But before he could react, an arm shot around his neck and choked him into unconsciousness. However, right before he passed out he heard the man say, “England is sick, We are the cure.” They had heard Scarlet say the same thing, before he said no more.

By the time that Godwin had regained consciousness, his cudgel was missing and the Dungeon Keys were in his possession. He didn’t have them before he passed out. They should have been with the on-duty key master. But before they dismissed Godwin, they laid his bloody cudgel down in front of him, telling him to clean it up. When he reached for it, he used his right hand. The Sheriff had surmised that the killer was left handed, due to the blow and the side from which it was struck. Godwin was not their man.

The Tower Guard

Alastair, the Tower Guard was on watch duty. Surely he saw something. When pressed, Alastair indeed admitted he saw something, but he was reluctant to admit it. He saw the Hood. At least he thought it was him. He had the terrible face of the Merry Men, all cloaked and hooded. He was like a demon. It moved like a wraith, gliding almost on the air. And when he reached the edge of the forest, he just seemed to melt in and disappear.

When asked why he had not sounded the alarm, his answer was too direct to be a lie. He was scared. So the Sheriff excused him. Perhaps being scared is not so foolish a notion. Especially when they can come and go without notice. But for the Sheriff, that just meant that the inside person was just an accomplice. The actual killer came from outside.

The Keymaster

Next was the Keymaster Carl’s turn. For some reason, he seemed not as nervous as his fellow guards had been. Although his story was just as unrevealing. According to Carl, he received the keys from the former Keymaster Alric. Nothing was out of the ordinary as he made his usual circuit around the castle. But by his second time around, he realized that the keys were somehow missing. When that had transpired he did not know.

But as he was pressed by Alan, he started repeating himself and his aforementioned aloofness began to fade. Alan contended that Carl was NOT doing his normal route. In fact, he was out drinking and whoring. In truth, if he were to ask Cerra at the brothel, she might give them a DIFFERENT tale. By now, Carl’s calmness was completely gone and he admitted that he wasn’t even supposed to be Keymaster that night. And the man he substituted for was in fact, Captain Dale.

An Unexpected Betrayal

For a man who had been involved in many an investigation, many a battle, this information was surprising even to the Sheriff. Alan, realizing that he had been outed, broke off into a run. As initially stunned as the Sheriff was, it was good marks upon him that he set chase so quickly. But first, he commanded that all the gates be closed. There would only be one place for Alan to make good his escape: The Postern Gate.

It was there that the fight commenced. It was bloody, it was brutal. But it was just hand to hand. No weapons were utilized. Perhaps out of respect, or perhaps because neither wanted this to escalate into steel vs steel. The Sheriff tried to talk Alan out of his decision. But Alan knew, if the Merry Men would do what they did to Scarlet, what would they do to him if he crossed them. If they captured him. He had a family to consider. So the fight continued and whether it was because the Sheriff was exhausted from previous battles or because his heart wasn’t totally in to the fight. He lay on the ground as Alan prepared to make his escape.

Thoughts

If you have had the pleasure of reading Nottingham #1, you know that whatever you think you know about Nottingham, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, discard it. In writer David Hazan’s interpretation of the story, those are just character place settings. His world is gritty. Full of hard men, and violent intentions. No singing and laughing and making sport of the Sheriff or his men. That kind of thinking would get you killed.

In Hazan’s Nottingham, the game is deadly serious as are the consequences. And because of that environment, you need a serious man to investigate when something bad happens. Such as a prisoner getting his skull bashed in under your watch. That is Sheriff Ev Blackthorne. But if you have fought as much, bled as much as Ev has, you become serious. That alone makes him different than most incarnations of the Sheriff of Nottingham you may have seen before. Especially when following the brutal Hood and his Hardly “Merry Men.”

It is also intriguing that Hazan has given Ev an almost crime scene detective’s ability to notice clues and make assertions from those details: Left handed assailant, violent, up close and personal. It is this unique adaptation of him and the story that makes Nottingham, a must read event. (It’s also the reason I threw in the famous Law and Order Sound)

On retrospect, one might question why Alan would push his replacement so hard. He basically outed himself by breaking the man down so readily. Perhaps, in the end, that’s what he wanted. Regardless, that is what happened and we’ll see where that takes us.

Artwork

A serious story needs a seriously skilled artist to bring it together. Through the first two issues, Shane Connery Volk has been up to that challenge and then some. His characters are the very interpretation of hard, weather worn veterans who have seen more than their share of bloody battles. Just the look that Volk captures on the faces of men like Blackthorne and Dale portrays that weariness. As does his use of black underneath the eyes.

It also is apparent in his battle scenes. No ballet like movements in these action scenes. Every blow looks like it was thrown with bad intentions, as such fights should be. When examined as a whole along with the color skills of Luca Romano, it’s not surprising that Nottingham has been a big hit. All I need to see now is what happens next.

Mad Cave Studios, Nottingham Issue #2 will be available where great comics are sold on April 7th. But be advised, Issue One sold out and required a reprint. Thankfully, the good folks at Mad Cave already ordered a second printing. However, don’t dawdle. Unless you fancy a visit from “The Hood.”


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