In recent years there has been some scholarly discussion regarding the real-life historical origins of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, including insight that suggests that it may have been Robert Godwinson’s sexual preference that led both to the outlaw’s exile as well as the naming of his band of brothers. Robin Hood and his Gay Guyfriends, or The Queer Quiver of Nottinghamshire, may have also been thrown around. I’m glad Merry Men stuck. It’s a helluva good band name. And a great title for the new Oni Press book from Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis, and Marissa Louise.
The book is far more than just an opportunity to see burly dudes making out in the forest, however. It’s an interesting slice of history, showcasing Medieval England during the decades immediately following the Norman conquest. And in addition to challenging the conceptions regarding Robin’s orientation, the book also challenges the folkloric tradition that romanticizes these Merry Men as being nothing more than humble thieves, robbing from the rich and all that. This first issue features some arrows through throats, dastardly assassinations, and the tainted soul of the enigmatic is-she-a-she-or-isn’t-she Scarlet. You know, great comic book stuff.
It also totally has burly dudes making out in the forest.
Additionally, each issue promises historical profiles, delving into “The Queer History of England,” with an inaugural biography on Alcuin of York. And expect to learn more about Richard the Lionheart, the English king who has become something of a gay icon; the storyline suggests that Robin’s troubles may have begun in the royal bedchamber. Also, as great as Jackie Lewis’s standard cover is, for my money nothing beats that Ed Luce (Wuvable Oaf) variant. Little John, “master of the quarterstaves” indeed.
Speaking of burly dudes, one of the better Civil War II tie-ins debuts this week, featuring “the original superhero,” Hercules, in Civil War II: Gods of War #1. The tie-in is little more than in name only, although the CWII inciting event, predicted by Ulysses and prevented by the combined forces of Marvel hero-dom, does figure into this first issue. Gods of War picks up where Dan Abnett’s (sadly) canceled Hercules series left off. The mythological gods and heroes of yore are being hunted and eliminated by The Uprising Storm, and Herc needs to pull together a band of heroic legends to fight back. Very American Gods-y.
Abnett does a nice job separating this God War mini-series from the Civil War storyline and, for that matter, everything else in Week 36 of All New All Different Marvel. Being able to predict and prevent tragedies may be at the center of the current superhero rift but, as Herc and His Demigod Pals point out, these guys have been fighting fate for millennia. Don’t tell us what’s going to happen, stupid social media monster. Hashtag-axetotheface.
It’s Week 3 of DC: Rebirth, and we get our first two legitimately relaunched titles, albeit neither one with an enticing “#1” indicator on the cover. Action Comics #957 and Detective Comics #934 are the two longest-running funnybooks in human history, so I’m glad they didn’t get a numerical refresh. The stories, on the other hand, are meant to be brand new, and to serve as jumping-on points for new readers. In Detective, we learn that a technologically sophisticated enemy is hunting Gotham’s superpowered vigilantes. Batman’s response is to partner with Batwoman and assemble the troops, training them for the fight to come. The team? Spoiler, Red Robin, and Clayface (?!) It’s like the Gotham version of Fantastic Four with less fire and more lesbians. Meanwhile, we get three more of those “zero-issue” Rebirth one-shots, this time introducing the new creative teams on Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman.