Friday, March 14, 2014

Kill Shakespeare Vol 1: A Review

Kill Shakespeare Volume One
Written by: Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, Andy Belanger (Illustrator)
Trade: 374 pages
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Language: English
November 2010
Genre: Comic Book/Graphic Novel

What Fables does for fairy tales, Kill Shakespeare does with the greatest writer of all time. This dark take on the Bard pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an epic adventure to find and kill a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare.


I am a bit of a Shakespeare nut. The Tempest and Hamlet are two of my favorites, but I have soft spots for Twelfth Night and Othello. I dig the sonnets. I love the way the words flow. I like the stories. It helps that middle name is after a character from The Merchant of Venice. Plus I have a whole genre in my film collection that is nothing but Shakespeare movies from Julie Taymor’s Titus to David Tennant’s Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I have little books and big books, a pocket size version of all the sonnets, and a tshirt that says “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt”. Like I said I’m a Shakespeare nerd.

I am also a big Fables fan. I love that my favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales hang out, live and scheme together…seriously tons of fun. So of course I had to try Kill Shakespeare since it is a mix of both despite the mixed reviews it has been getting. Because, let’s face it, you never really know. It could be a diamond in the rough.

Set in an alternate world, Shakespeare’s creations all live at the same time just as the fairytales do in Fables. Hamlet shipwrecks in England and is told by King Richard that he is their savior and sent to them to kill the evil Shakespeare and steal his quill which among many things could bring back Hamlet’s late father. So while Richard, Iago, Lady Macbeth and other villains from Shakespeare’s works try to manipulate poor Hamlet into doing their bidding, Shakespeare has his own allies in the forms of Juliet, Othello, and Falstaff. Who is Hamlet to believe and who exactly is this Shakespeare?

Things I loved: I love the premise of Iago and Richard working together alongside a scheming Lady Macbeth (as buxom as she is. This shouldn’t surprise me though, of course they would make her the buxom temptress and relegate her to sex goddess instead of manipulative schemer). I like that Hamlet and Falstaff could potentially be buds. These are the things that drew me to the first trade. It is ridiculous, but fun and I am happy to have Juliet be a heroine though I may have chosen a few others, but maybe they will make appearances in subsequent volumes.

The artwork is not bad. Very vivid in color and while the main characters definitely have their own style and look, I did feel as if secondary characters all blend together. It lacks some of the finesse that other comics have, but it was not distracting overall.

The vernacular ranges from Shakespeare-esque English to more current vernacular. Again, not exactly surprised given the audience that I am assuming the comic is striving for. It is accessible for the most part though it does have its stumbles.

Things I didn’t love so much: I was not expecting the eloquence of Shakespeare. Not that comics cannot be eloquent, but even in Fables the characters don’t always stick to the little pigeonholes that we have put them in. Iago is one of my favorite villains and here he is a simple lackey without the character depth that he has in Othello. Hamlet is not even close to the clever sweet prince I adore, instead he is a bit of a clueless cad who seems more like a bumbling teen than a man who is indecisive and full of self-doubt, even as he tries to right wrongs either his own or those of others.

The pacing can be a bit hectic and the characters don’t really have the depth that they do in the plays, but I think this is largely because the authors expect that you have some cursory knowledge of the various works of Shakespeare. Admittedly they are shadows to their Shakespearean counterparts.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I like the idea, but I am not sure that overall it is a series I want to put a lot of time and effort into, but the first volume wasnt horrible.

Part of: A Series

Also Recommended: Fables by Bill Willingham, Unwritten by Mike Carey and Ruse by Mark Waid

2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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