Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Sherwood, Texas Miniseries

Hopefully you were one of the fortunate peeps at Free Comic Book Day to snag a split job from indie publisher 12- Gauge Comics featuring Boondock Saints and the debut of Shane Berryhill's gritty re-imagination of Robin Hood lore, Sherwood, Texas.  As one of the most promising freebies of this year's event, the five issue miniseries was officially launched this week, and with the appetizing intro price of only a buck.

Part of this low-price incentive comes from smart marketing, while the other part comes from the fact the first issue here represents the material outlined in the FCBD offering, but with extra pages marking the continuation of the story.

Berryhill, author of the y/a genre Chance Fortune books, shows a harsher side of his storytelling talents with Sherwood, Texas, a place that, believe it or not, actually exists.  Albeit, Berryhill reportedly just learned of this fact after gauging online reception to the FCBD teaser.  We'll cut the man some slack, because if the real Sherwood, Texas is anything like Berryhill's bloody microcosm, people would be well-advised to stay clear.

Sherwood, Texas' world is set in a sprawled dustbowl hellhole where outlaws rule, the antithesis to the olde English folklore behind Robyn Hode and his "merry men" hiding for cover in the woods and making a mockery of the local sovereignty.  The opposing sides here are biker gangs, which our brooding antihero, Rob Hood, is thrust between upon his return home from the navy following the death of his father.  The bad guys (who are naturally responsible for the slaying of Hood's dad) are flipped as reprehensible drug pushers, human traffickers, rapists, murderers and basic shitheels of society.  Naming themselves The Nobles, it seems there's no low these thugs will go to in the effort to singlehandedly control Sherwood, Texas and to squash their rival biker gang, The Jesters.

Amongst the ranks of The Jesters is Rob Hood's Indian half-brother, Will, and it's established early-on there's bad blood between them at the funeral of their father, Richard "The Lion" Hood.  Reminiscent of the opening scrum between the Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet, The Nobles crash the funeral and Rob is goaded into taking a shot at their leader, Prince.  Snubbing Will's invitation to join The Jesters for a wake in honor of Richard, Rob is essentially cast as a lone wolf.  Again, Berryhill capsizes the original Robin Hood ethos while saluting it in subtle fashion.  No worries of any corny, Costner-esque water-downs here. 

Aside from the warmth of his girlfriend, Molly, Berryhill's Rob lives a cold and lonely life, and he is going to pay the price immediately for his refusal to align with either side amongst the warring sanctions.  Remember, the original Robin Hood is likewise a former soldier looking to get away from conflict, but conflict comes to and essentially defines him.  When Rob finally caves in and attempts to bury the hatchet with Will at an isolated bar called "LJ's" (as in Little John, get it?), the beefy proprietor (LJ, naturally), sends Rob flying out the window to an even worse fate at the hands of The Nobles.

Issue # 1 finds Rob left for dead after some brutal mistreatment as the ghost of "The Lion" summons Will to rescue his half-brother, setting up for a shaky alliance you figure will equate to a bloody reckoning between the feuding biker gangs. 

Berryhill has stated in an interview he feels Sherwood, Texas is "Robin Hood through a Quentin Tarantino lens."  Tarantino has a knack for mating kickass, atmospheric music with his tension-filled scenes.  I would recommend Matt Boroff's writhing Sweet Hand of Fate album to accompany the tormented desert vistas of Berryhill's Sherwood, Texas. 

For certain, there's a heavy pulp element to this miniseries and though Zenescope has been banking most of their books with the toughening up and titillating of classic fairy tales and beloved fantasy that has stood the test of time, Sherwood, Texas ups the ante in a big way.  Daniel Hillyard's work is grittier and more abstract than the lush pencils and colors in, say, Wonderland, Grimm Fairy Tales and of course, their female competitor to Berryhill's, Robyn Hood.  Sherwood, Texas is obviously a rough 'n tumble tale and Hillyard's jagged facial expressions on these characters insinuate weathered folk who are no strangers to violence.  Violence is sure to follow here...

                      Listenin' to:  Ramones - Rocket to Russia

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