In Review: Robyn Hood 2016 Annual

An excellent coda for this run of Robyn's saga, though the visuals should have been better.

The covers: Five covers to seek out for this final issue in writer Pat Shand’s run. The A cover is by Roberta Ingranata and Ylenia Di Napoli and it’s the image accompanying this review. A full figure of Robyn Locksley is walking forward, surrounded by characters she’s encountered in this series’ run. Ingranata and Di Napoli are the two artists I most associate with this series, so this is the cover I had to get. The B is by Larry Watts and Victor Bartlett. This is a gorgeous image of Robyn standing atop a mound of debris that includes several skulls. She’s pulling an arrow out of her quiver to take down the zombie that’s coming at her, even after she’s already planted one through its head. Behind her the debris is on fire and creates a tremendous black cloud. Unfortunately the fire is the least of her worries as several other undead characters are coming towards her, and, if one is familiar with Robyn’s run of stories, their costumes look very familiar. Excellent cover. The C cover is also a beautiful cover, though this one doesn’t have any of the menace of the previous piece. This is by Maria Laura Sanapo and Mohan Sivakami. Robyn is dressed for Marian Quin’s wedding. She’s wearing a gorgeous green dress, holding a bouquet of pink flowers, and her yellow hair is blowing in the breeze. Oh, and she’s also got her bow and quiver slung over a shoulder. No one said she shouldn’t be ready for trouble. Outstanding. Robert Atkins and Wes Hartman do a nice piece of Robyn running into action, an arrow already nocked for release. Behind her are a pair of antagonists who’ve appeared previously as villains, and given the way they’re looking down upon the hero, they probably still are baddies. Robyn looks fine, but the pair aren’t threatening enough. The final cover is the Retailer Incentive cover by Jason Cardy, but I couldn’t find a copy of that online, so good luck finding it! Overall grades: A A, B A, C A, and D C+

The story: Robyn is wearing a green dress at an outside event, battling gaunt glowing red creatures as party goers scatter. Her opening narration by Pat Shand is perfect. “I know, weird, right? Me…In a dress. Oh. These guys? Not sure what their deal is.” In three narration balloons, Shand has given a reader the tone of this tale. This moment is left for later as the turn of page flashbacks to earlier that morning. Robyn is having a meltdown with the the building’s handyman for letting her cat out. Only Marian’s intervention gets the man to exit and she gives the hero her morning cup of coffee that instantly changes her tone. Trying on her dress for Marian’s wedding, Robyn asks if the bride misses the cats, since Marian no longer lives with her. She does and she tells Robyn that she’s “not going anywhere. This is just…a new beginning.” Robyn feels awkward, so she changes the subject to the dress, a type of clothing she never wears. The conversation stops when someone from both women’s past arrives at the door hoping to see that the two were okay. He says, “I heard whisperings in Myst of dark magic being used against she who liberated Nottingham! I traveled cross-realm to ensure your safety.” He found a note on their door. Robyn reads the paper and thinks to herself, ‘Damn’ Bad things are occurring in the Myst and they’re coming to New York for Robyn. Why these creatures are arriving is fairly easy to discern if one has looked at all the variant covers available on this issue. The battle with the characters is quick but have a heavy psychological pull on the hero. The masterminds of the troubles are dealt with and then it’s off to the wedding, where another problem rears its head. All of Robyn’s allies help her out in this battle and it resolves itself much more quickly. The penultimate page has what this issue has building toward: what’s Robyn and Marian’s new relationship going to be? Shand wraps it up perfectly, leaving the door open for new writers to take over Robyn’s adventures. Very well done. Overall grade: A

The art: The illustrations for this issue are by Larry Watts and they’re fine. The opening page is a great introduction to the title character, even though she’s not wearing her normal fighting gear, as she punches out a creature while another lunges for her. It’s in complete opposition to the text, which makes the visual all the stronger. There’s also a smile on Robyn’s face as she smacks the creature down, showing that she enjoys doing what she does. The next three pages have Robyn in her apartment speaking with Marian. Watts moves his point of view around well, but Robyn’s face isn’t very consistent: the person in the first panel on Page 3 is not the same person in any of the other panels on the page. This facial discrepancy occurs often in this book with Robyn and other characters. The revival on Page 5 is very well done, it’s creepy and gross. When this creature and its allies attack Robyn it’s nicely done. When the characters co-mingle into something else, the new creature looks great; I was expecting a Kurt Russell cameo to take the creature down. The backgrounds of the setting, sadly, aren’t as well done. They are either too simplistic or non-existent. After the battle in the streets, it’s off to the wedding and the final conflict. These pages look much better. Granted, the setting is outdoors with limited foliage and requisite tables and paper lanterns, but it looks fine. Watts does a really fine job with all the conversations, and having people talking doesn’t lend itself to riveting storytelling, but he makes it interesting to look at. The second-to-last page between Robyn and Marian is picture perfect, with Marian getting a sensational final panel, showing that she is truly distanced herself from her friend. Watts does a serviceable job. Overall grade: C+

The colors: This element of the book was all over the place. I’ve never seen Slamet Mujiono be so inconsistent. The first page, a splash, expertly highlights Robyn, but the creatures are too similar to the background and are mostly lost. I didn’t even pick up on the creature in the distance the first time I read the book because the colors on this page are too dark. Things vastly improve on Pages 2 – 7, which are interior shots and one page featuring magic. However, the three pages that follow are, again, too dark. Yes, it’s supposed to be a night sequence, but colors can be fudged away from reality very easily in a comic book and the reader would roll with it. Coloring the sky a blue could have had eluded to night and allowed the art to be better seen. For the battle on the streets, blue is used for the evening and the sequence plays much better. Sadly the purple skies return for the wedding sequence. Elements of the visuals bleed into the setting because of the coloring. A real mixed bag. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Narration, dialogue, scene settings, sounds, signage, yells, a group of villains’ unique dialogue font, the final villain’s speech, and the final “End” are all created by Jim Campbell. It’s always a joy to see characters’ speech have a specialized font to separate them from others and Campbell does this very well. The sounds are also good, with each arrow released by Robyn looking and sounding cool. Overall grade: A

The final line: An excellent coda for this run of Robyn’s saga, though the visuals should have been better. You’ll be missed, Mr. Shand. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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