Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery and Andy Bellanger: Kill Shakespeare

The Web site for Kill Shakespeare summarizes the series like so:

A combination of “Fables”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Lord of the Rings”, Kill Shakespeare offers a remixed re-envisioning of the greatest characters of all-time, featuring action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence. It is an adventure of Shakespearean proportions.

Kill Shakespeare Volume 1Talk about setting the bar high (and cheekily so, given the Shakespeare reference!). It’s no mean feat for a series to try and go toe to toe with any one of the series mentioned, let alone all three. Does Kill Shakespeare live up to the claim?

It’s probably a bit early to canonize the series, after just a few issues, but it is cleverly written, with an intriguing premise and characters who are so very familiar, yet fresh. In the England of Kill Shakespeare, William Shakespeare is a creature of myth, possessed of a magic quill.  Some worship him, some disbelieve and yet others want him dead. Into the middle of all this walks Hamlet, who may or may not be the Shadow King, destined to find Shakespeare.

Hamlet runs into quite the cast of characters — first King Richard and Iago, then Falstaff, Juliet and Othello. Richard wants Shakespeare dead, wants the quill for his own use. He’s allied with Lord and Lady Macbeth, Don John and Iago. Juliet leads a rebellion against Richard in support of Shakespeare, helped by Othello and Falstaff. Needless to say, Hamlet, still reeling from his father’s death, is perplexed by the sudden demand for his skills and loyalty. Which side will he support? And more importantly, which side is right?

Shakespeare remains a mystery at this point, but the other characters are portrayed true to their roots. Falstaff is larger than life and full of good cheer. Lady Macbeth is sly and manipulative (one can but pity Macbeth himself). Richard is duplicitous. And Juliet … well, she’s a little different here, taking on the role of leader, rather than star-crossed lover. It’s an interesting take on the character — if not entirely unique (the Romeo x Juliet anime beat Kill Shakespeare to the idea of a rebellious Juliet by a handful of years). It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Romeo puts in an appearance. And although much hinges on Hamlet’s strength of character and choices, it’s Iago who’s the fascinating character. His motives, and his loyalties, are clouded and his true self not yet really seen. He’s one to watch … or watch out for.

References abound to other Shakespeare characters and plays, cleverly laced into the dialogue, and the art is crisp, vivid and appealing. In short, there’s much to like here for fans of Shakespeare and comics alike.

As mentioned above, Kill Shakespeare has its very own Web site, where readers can view a trailer and read up on the story, characters and creators.

(IDW Publishing, 2010)

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