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ROBYN HOOD: OUTLAW #4

What They Say: Robyn sinks into the depths of society she didn’t know existed beneath the streets of New York – a place of power, magic, and mayhem. But little does she know, this place may just help her find the curse she seeks to save the life of her friend. Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers): Robyn has finally proven herself to the dwellers of the Underground by rescuing Watt, however it does not seem as everyone approves of this new relationship as Golem prepares to tear apart his nemesis. It is only the white-haired woman who she saved which stands between the two rivals, ready and prepared to stop her savior with a shocking reception to save her companion, but there is no need as someone else stays both sides. The leader to this quarrelsome cadre Gynt purposefully calms the situation by imposing his will upon the combatants, however, it is the one named Emmet who does not wish to cease hostilities, his temper having consumed his better judgment but with a menacing glare the boy finally obeys and reforms back into his normal features. Now all that remains is for Locksley to calm herself as he insists on talking to his new accomplice alone – to outline the benefits of this new relationship plus the added interest of a possible cure for Julia, and yet he still refuses to provide any details for the upcoming job, instead requesting she go and mingle with her new partners in crime. As Robyn widens her horizons for this subterranean oasis, the prospect of socializing with strangers who want nothing to do with her does not brighten the situation when she meets the first member – a dapper man dressed in trench coat and sportsman’s deerstalker hat calling himself Goldrush with a biting wit just as amiable as the archer herself. Although the two prove themselves to each other, Locksley gives the acerbic man a timely rebuff and proceeds to find the next on her list of greetings, an acrobatic braggart named Matter, however, this meeting goes as smoothly as before with the blonde archer besting the daredevil in matching fashion. However, it is not until she reaches the final person does Robyn become apprehensive by the shyness of a girl called Synapse, even if she prefers being addressed as Molly, for before the vigilante can ask a question the stranger confesses she can gradually delve into peoples’ minds. But before the conversation can progress any further Watt assertively interrupts and warns against investigating any further due to the danger, even though Molly claims it has never happened before. It is only then does the mohawked woman persuade Locksley they should go to her bar for a quiet drink, but even as they enjoy each others’ company and Robyn turns to leave there is still an inkling of mistrust behind the verbal exchanges, with suspicion giving way as the ground itself crumbles beneath her very feet. In Summary: Just when I think writer Howard Mackie couldn’t make this book any more intriguing, he then introduces the premise for why Gynt sought out our favorite archer – a mutual need to help themselves and a friend. But as I was reading this introduction to the Underground crew, you cannot but compare this story’s establishment to any popular heist movie but I was leaning more towards either version of Ocean’s Eleven, with each member having their own speciality to assist in the job. While this foundation may seem a bit blasé by having to rely on a classic standard to propel the title forward, at the same time you cannot but wonder how Mackie will change the foundation to rely on each person’s unique skills, all while trying to tolerate Robyn’s acerbic attitude and injecting her into a group who already depend upon each other for survival; and speaking of abilities, it seems strange the series has a propensity to also rely upon a certain publisher’s marvelous super-powered team with this tale securing those inclinations with too many similarities to ignore. Although the previous members of Tatter, Gynt and Watt may have just been coincidences, we now have three more characters whose traits imitate pre-established icons in a flattering manner, but at the same time it gives the tale a lackluster appearance which would be better served rather than reusing standards. And yet the narrative does save itself by raising the promise of betrayal within this new team, creating paranoia for the rookie and thus keeping Locksley vigilante so as not to let down her guard. After all Robyn usually works by herself and does not trust those she does not know like Marian and Julia, but at the same time once people do earn her confidence she will go to any lengths to protect them, just as she is doing now to find a cure for Commissioner Gengrich. Hopefully this readiness will develop with future issues, but for now, I cannot wait to see how suspicions will strengthen the misgivings for our blonde archer. I cannot believe how with each issue Babisu Kourtis’ amazing artistry expands our acceptance of this subterranean world with such stunningly crisp line work and detailed nuances which weave itself into a tapestry of magnificence, and yet it would not be as dramatically effective without an essential array of subdued colors by Juan Manuel Rodriguez, teasing the reader with an atmosphere that could not be as powerfully enticing if not for these muted tones, enhancing each and every incredible image. It is this unique palette of complexity which allows a counterintuitive change within the normalcy of expected color design – instead of using brighter shading to denote excitement or frenetic moments, Rodriguez prevails on a contrasting technique of allowing gradients of grey and dancing shadows to strengthen components which we would never noticed before, thus opening our awareness to highlights which would have been lost within the intricacies of design. However one cannot deny it is Kourtis’ sensational illustrations which allow for his partner to extenuate the entanglement of the Underworld and from the opening page he has our focus, strategically using a split panel setup to expand available space utilizing an optical illusion to imitate depth and give the audience immersive tension of Robyn’s current situation. One cannot but be in awe to witness this extraordinary decision to expand our view with such a simple trick and yet it is monumentally effective, then add the uncomplicated method of using a bright yellow to draw our attention on the singular figure all as dark debris and rubble create an ominous environment denoting a sense of hopelessness … this is how you grab the audience’s scrutiny and never let it go. And from there this talented pair only widens our understanding of Locksley’s paranoia, especially effective with the following full-page spread which magnifies the stress obvious from the start – Robyn forced to join people she does not know nor trust, all with the empty promise of a possible cure. The careful framing of each compounding event transitions the story effortlessly, allowing the reader to feel every moment of restlessness as our blonde heroine dares to venture further into the unknown, you can understand her unease and the stress of every meeting is disarming until it triggers a new worry, wondrously etched upon her beautifully expressive face with colors which only amplify the distrust she has for this place and these people. If this is how they create a set for what comes next, I cannot wait to see how they will top the anxiety with what is to come. While this issue of Robyn Hood: Outlaw may attempt to drive the story forward with elements all too familiar as to create an undeniable sense of déjà vu, it still propels the reader forward due to Robyn’s fervent determination and sense of proven friendship. However one cannot ignore the true attraction for this series is the wondrous artwork and understated colors which transform a leading story into a book of wild expectations all to witness what happens next. But as we pass the midpoint of the title one cannot but question how they can surpass what has been witnessed with such visual ecstasy and graphic excellence, however, if they continue in this manner we cannot but anticipate with excitement for the next month’s array of utter satisfaction.-

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