Writer: David Hazan
Artist: Shane Connery Volk
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
WHAT IS IT?
The first in an anthology series spinning out of the world of Nottingham: a Robin Hood retelling that is an intense mix of fantasy and noir.
Think the secret society of Assassin’s Creed meets the political drama of Game of Thrones.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Aya has spent the last year honing her body into a weapon, mastering the art of hiding in the shadows, and even found love in fellow assassin, Hamza. Completing their training, the two have been tasked with killing Conrad de Montferrat who has been elected Crusader King of Jerusalem. The King's ascendancy to the throne was widely supported by the high-court and much of the land’s aristocracy, but one noble, Richard the Lionheart, feels scorned by this decision.
Aya and Hamza catch the King one fateful day when he breaks from his usual midday meal with his wife. Strolling the city to find himself a companion to dine with the assassins sneak up on him and his guards stabbing Montferrat twice. The guards give chase, catching Hamza and killing Aya, at least, that’s what they thought… Who ordered the attack on the new king and can Aya fight past her injuries to save her comrade?
Hazan’s story is written like a dramatic play and makes everything feel intensely grand. It reads like a storyteller recounting heroic events around the fire.
The scratchy linework and heavy shading of Volk instantly give a sense of unease to everything. He’s not afraid to show the violence of the narrative in his art.
Romano’s colors are rich and make the dramatic moments leap off the page. He excellently maintains the focus of each scene through contrasting colors and greatly adds to the texture of every background.
This text-heavy comic is a smooth read largely due to Justin Birch’s lettering. The placement of his balloons and boxes was essential to the story’s pace and maintained a slow dramatic cadence.
Hazan manages to weave a heartbreaking romance into this political drama that is engaging and greatly fleshes out the motivations of the main character.
The team excellently ensures that the narration and art work together to divulge as much information as possible without either repeating the other.
The art and coloring weren’t afraid to make stark contrasts in lighting. The amount of tension and drama created from this aspect alone is highly commendable.
The sound effects lettering is truly stellar. They add additional motion to the actions while not being dominant in the art.
This issue includes a preview of Exorcists Never Die for some bonus reading.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Content Warning: This book features depictions of graphic violence and some nudity. Anyone sensitive to these may want to choose something else.
The narration sometimes mimics the art instead of adding additional information. This slows down the pace of reading unnecessarily and adds more text to cover the art.
When the story switches from the present to the past it isn't immediately apparent that Aya is in both time periods. Showing her face sooner or having some unique identifying mark could have helped in this regard.
The story follows a character that is not typically a part of Robin Hood lore. This issue may not be the best starting point for someone new to the series who expects this type of tale.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
As a fan of Mad Cave’s Nottingham comics, this new anthology series is quite the treat. It opens up the world to new settings and ideas in an already established, vibrant world while still maintaining excellent storytelling. Many stories that act as a prelude fall victim to the need to explain every little detail and sacrifice satisfying arcs. The first issue of Tales from Nottingham should be praised for avoiding this problem. The team tackles this by mixing in an omniscient narrator retelling the political dramas of the past and a romantic first-person account that brings everything down to earth. Through Aya’s fight for her life and ensuing flashbacks into her assassin training, the reader truly sees the stakes and emotions behind everything.
This art team seems like a match made in heaven. Everything gels so nicely and gives Nottingham a distinct style. Everyone on this team understands the importance of contrast in telling a dramatic story. For the most part, Volk’s linework is thin and scraggly with little splashes of shadow here and there. But, other pages are washed in black with only a few silhouettes deepening the weight of everything. Likewise, Romano knows when exactly to detract from the rusty tones of the desert setting and punch the reader in the heart with purples and blues. Tying everything together is Birch’s lettering which delivers the narration and dialogue in a steady, stage-like rhythm. This is truly some of the best lettering I’ve ever seen from him.
While perhaps not the best choice for new readers, Tales from Nottingham is an excellent choice for fans of the series or anyone looking for a dramatic, bite-sized bit of dark fantasy.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Nottingham by David Hazan & Shane Connery Volk
Monomyth by David Hazan & Cecilia Lo Valvo
Dungeons & Dragons: Abraxis Wren of Eberron by Paul Crilley, Keith Baker & Valerio Schiti
If you like the art:
Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire
Locke & Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King, Peter David & Jae Lee
ABOUT THE CREATORS
David Hazan (@DavidTHazan) – Writer
Winner of the Mad Cave Studios Talent Search in 2019, Hazan has risen through the ranks, writing books for AfterShock Comics, Scout Comics, and Mad Cave Studios.
They find inspiration for their stories by doing mundane tasks such as walking or cleaning.
Hazan hails from Australia.
Shane Connery Volk (@ShaneCVolk) - Artist
Connery launched his comics career in 2019 after winning Mad Cave Studios talent, leading to his first series, Nottingham.
He is also the lead singer and songwriter of the Canadian rock band One Bad Son which has toured with Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Shinedown.
Volk hails from Canada.
Luca Romano (@Malkamok) – Colorist
A rising talent, Romano has colored books for Advent Comics and Mad Cave Studios.
He is a TTRPG enthusiast and an “omnivorous metalhead”.
Romano hails from Italy.
Justin Birch (@JustinBirch) – Letterer
Garnering a Ringo nomination in 2018, Birch has lettered books for nearly every major comics publisher
In his downtime, he is an avid toy and comic collector and breakfast foods are his favorite.
Birch is a member of Deron Bennet’s AndWorld Design lettering studio.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Nottingham characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of Mad Cave Studios or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.