Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Under the Hood

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 4th, 2012

VariantVariantGrimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood #1
Writers: Joe Brusha, Raven Gregory, Ralph Tedesco & Pat Shand
Pencils: Dan Glasl
Colors: Tom Mullin & Jason Embury
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artists: Eric Basaldua/Greg Horn/Stjepan Sejic
Editor: Hannah Gorfinkel
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $2.99 US

Though I can’t think of a specific example, I doubt this is the first time we’ve seen the Robin Hood legend go through a gender bender, but there’s no denying it plays right into Zenescope’s wheelhouse. I’ve never been interested in the bad-girl riff that’s the publisher’s bread and butter, but fortunately, this origin story doesn’t incorporate much of that motif (though it’s coming, I’m sure). Zenescope’s spin on the legendary archer hero is well timed, given how archery has resonated strongly in pop culture as of late thanks to Marvel’s The Avengers and The Hunger Games, and curiosity about how the adventure classic has been tweaked here might allow Zenescope to attract some new readers. Robyn Hood doesn’t represent great comics storytelling, but it’s capable and accessible.

After losing her mother as a teen and leaving her father behind long before that, a young woman named Robyn has lived a hard life, acquiring and developing the skills necessary to survive. Not only is she a fighter, but she became a great thief and pickpocket, something she had to do to get the money needed to buy her mother the medications she needed. Now alone in the world, she continues to excel in her life, but she also rebels, and it’s that fierce, proud streak that attracts the wrong kind of attention from cruel young men. She’ll soon get a chance to escape the mundane, difficult life in Everyday America as she’s transported to a world of magic. But that doesn’t mean life is going to get easy.

Zenescope Entertainment continues to expand its brand and line of titles with this latest project. What I find interesting here is the fact this is apparently connected to the continuity of other titles — at least, I assume so. The protagonist boasts a connection to a mystical realm that’s part of a group of magical worlds, the others being storybook backdrops that no doubt play a role in the publisher’s Grimm’s Fairy Tales bad-girl adventure/fantasy comics. The good news is familiarity with Zenescope’s other comics isn’t necessary to follow the premise here. It’s a wise move. If one was interested in what Zenescope has to offer but might be put off by a possibly inaccessible tone in its other titles, Robyn Hood serves as a convenient and straightforward gateway.

Complaining about the overly buxom babe on the various covers for this issue (as well as the even more gratuitous images gracing the limited-edition incentive covers, not reproduced here) seems rather pointless, as such displays of T&A are par for the course for Zenescope comics. Actually, to be completely fair, it’s part of the publisher’s business model. It’s what Zenescope purposefully offers that’s enabled it to develop a dedicated niche audience. I don’t begrudge it the approach — it seems to work for it, even though it doesn’t draw me in. Fortunately, the imagery inside the comic itself is far less… obtrusive. The title character isn’t the adult bombshell depicted on the covers. Instead, she’s mainly portrayed as a young girl, and I’m pleased artist Dan Glasl doesn’t sexualize her. My favorite scene, visually speaking, was the one in which an agent for good consults with seemingly divine masters about the fate of the infant who will grow up to be our heroine. Overall, the art serves the story well, but there was never a panel or page that really wowed me. Glasl has the fundamentals down, but I didn’t see much in the way of a distinct style that would allow him to stand out. And perhaps the most irksome thing about the title character design is the missing/glowing eye/scar thing, an overused element, notably from Marvel titles of the 1990s.

Like the art, the story, though serviceable, doesn’t come off as particularly inventive or fresh. The plot is a familiar one. Actually, if one looks back a couple of weeks at DC’s Sword of Sorcery #0, one will find a similar spin on the same story: a teenage girl discovers she’s actually a warrior woman and savior from a hidden, magical world. It’s a staple of genre fiction, and writer Pat Shand (who was also a member of the four-man committee that came up with the concept) handles it competently. It’s by-the-numbers comic storytelling, solid but a bit ordinary (despite the many fantastic elements involved).

Also like Sword of Sorcery #0, this debut issue features a scene in which a teenage girl is menaced with a gang rape. The scene in the DC comic didn’t strike me as particularly bothersome; it was fleeting, and perhaps it didn’t stand out as much since the threat was against a minor supporting character. Here, it’s the title character that fights against the potential violation and desperately steels herself for it. It’s unsettling, and I don’t know that it’s necessary. While the overall tone of the story is conventional and familiar, the ugliness of the scene stood out — but in an unfortunate way. I was jarred out of the story, and while rape ultimately isn’t portrayed, the extreme violence inflicted on the heroine was too over the top and not terribly believable. No amount of influence would protect the offender from prosecution or outrage. 5/10

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One Response to “Under the Hood”

  1. Vanja Says:

    I applaud you for applying a serious analysis on the offering of the publisher that is traditionally marginalized in critical circles. Zenescope has been around long enough to develop a cult following, and it stands to reason that their publishing initiatives are deserving to be occasionally spotlighted.