Goodreads: Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood
Fast-paced graphic storytelling and stunning full-color illustrations combine in an action-packed retelling of the heroic Robin Hood story.
How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw. Lively language and illustrations follow the legendary hero as he champions the poor and provokes a high-stakes vendetta in a gripping adventure sure to draw a new generation of readers.
Review: Outlaw is a somewhat darker take on the Robin Hood tale, starring a Robin who is mature and somewhat bitter from his childhood experiences and his role in the Crusades. He is, however, a complete badass, and will satisfy readers who like their legendary figures tough in battle, witty with their enemies, and suave with the ladies. The plot offers few surprises, following standard escapades as Robin crosses paths with Guy of Gisburne and the Sheriff of Nottingham and woos the Lady Marian. Its greatest claim to originality is its medium—the graphic novel. Readers can see as Robin waylays travelers and breaks into the Sheriff’s home.
When the story does depart from more traditional Robin Hood elements to original ones, the plotlines seems out of place. The book opens with Robin as a child, in an attempt to build something of a backstory for him. If anyone ever wanted to know exactly how Robin became good with a bow, or when he first romanticized the idea of becoming an outlaw, the answers are here. These moments are referenced frequently as Robin experiences flashbacks about them, and they are clearly meant to move the audience. They also humanize Robin, and he becomes less than legend in this book.
The book further departs from tradition by introducing an element of the supernatural. Sherwood, it seems, is haunted. No one can find Robin’s band because they are too fearful to enter the woods and look. Unfortunately, there is only a single encounter with spirits, near the beginning of the story, and then the matter is dropped. The subsequent absence of what had promised to be a major component of the book and Robin’s life is noticeable and could leave readers dissatisfied.
In terms of artwork, the first panel is spectacularly immersive, featuring a hooded outlaw perched among the branches of a large tree, seemingly aiming his bow straight at the reader as he demands a toll before he or she can move on. Unfortunately, this is the illustrator’s most brilliant moment, as the panels following never again incorporate the reader directly into the story or generally add much the text itself could not accomplish. Most of the panels are dark, making it difficult sometimes to tell which characters are speaking or what is happening in general. This can build an atmosphere of confusion for the reader that is fitting for a story based around conspiracies, but it also means that often there is not really much to look at.
Mostly, Outlaw stands on readers’ already formed love of the Robin Hood tale. The artwork has some interesting features, when visible, but readers will probably not be poring over it. The dialogue vacillates between being sassy and awkwardly phrased. The plot is fun—but it is standard. Barring the addition of Robin’s childhood years, most of it has been done before, in greater length and detail. Outlaw could serve as a fun introduction to Robin Hood, to familiarize young readers with the general idea of the story, or it could be a fun read for those interested in comparing different Robin Hood versions. In both cases, it needs to be read in comparison with other Robin Hood books because it is simply not remarkable enough to stand on its own.
2 thoughts on “Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee”
I came across this book when I was working in the public library last year and don’t remember being too impressed with it either. I gave it a 2 on Goodreads, apparently… Honestly, I don’t remember much at all about the story, even with reviews jogging my memory. I do remember hoping it would open the Robin Hood story up to readers of graphic novels though.
Yeah, the plot wasn’t wildly original, so I thought the book would have to sell itself on its artwork. But in general the artwork isn’t that detailed and it’s often too dark to tell what’s going on. In a way, that fits the mood of the tale, but it simply isn’t very interesting to look at. I honestly thought the first panel was brilliant–and was disappointed through the rest of the book because nothing else lived up to it.