“Kill Shakespeare” takes a delightfully unique and easy-to-swallow premise and does it one better by bothering to build a gripping story around it. This isn’t simply a case of “what if all of Shakespeare’s characters existed and interacted?” This is a whole world worth getting into.
Written by Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col
Illustrated by Andy Belanger
The critically acclaimed series returns with a new adventure of Shakespearean proportions! With Richard III and Lady Macbeth defeated, Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Romeo face an even greater danger—Prospero, a rogue wizard who plans to destroy all of creation. Hamlet must embark on a perilous journey to a remote island whose inhabitants have gone mad and want the Dane’s blood… if they aren’t beaten to the chase by one of Hamlet’s allies.
The story begins with a little downtime after the events of the earlier series. With Juliet and Hamlet having taken up together, Romeo drifts around losing himself in booze and sex without satisfaction or a sense of purpose. It’s all presented very maturely and the Shakespearian flavor of the dialogue bats away all the potential cliches. In fact, aside from one very blatant dick joke, “The Tide of Blood” #1 is an adult story that takes the fiction its built around seriously. When using existing literary characters, the temptation is to be overly referential or to be a slave to existing characterization. By putting Romeo, Juliet, Othello, and Hamlet into entirely new situations and relationships, there is some room to play with their roles and personalities. Romeo, the hopeless romantic who lets love steer him, is totally recognizable here. But it’s a novel idea to complicate his relationship with Juliet for a different reason than what was presented in the original play. The only character that doesn’t feel like the character from his play is Hamlet, which is odd considering everyone knows and has read Hamlet, for mandatory reasons or otherwise. He doesn’t get a whole lot of panel time though, so perhaps he’s just in the background for now.
Despite the flowery language and the very Shakespearian sense of relationships and drama, there is nothing here that should steer away fans of good comic booking. There’s a Conan-esque sense of adventure and sorcery present in this issue to go along with the realism of the character work. It’s entertaining to watch Hamlet and Juliet banter back and forth. It’s compelling to see Romeo fight his inner demons. For a host of different reasons, these characters are ones you will want to get behind, which keeps things from getting dry even in the downtime.
Andy Belanger’s art has always been an uncoventional approach for a period story such as this, but it works. His characters are expressive and his sense of setting is well-researched and authentic-feeling, despite being filled with some trappings that are clearly fictional. It’s fun to watch the characters gear up for the battle against Titus, mostly because the art as additive to the sense of oncoming tension and comes through in spades when the action starts. The only weakness to the presentation of the book is the fact that the characters can have inconsistent proportions at times. This is mostly evident in the facial work, where an odd change in eye or mouth size is noticable. It’s attractive character design, but it isn’t totally consistent.Continued below
For the uninitiated, the “Kill Shakespeare” series takes a bunch of well-known characters and throws them into a blender of fantasy and drama in an original period setting that is fun to look at. That said, if you are uninitiated, this may not be the best place to start. We catch up pretty much right where our main characters left off before and the conflicts would not be entirely clear, if you didn’t read what came before this. In a series like this, that’s preferable. This is a meaty issue and it gets right to the point without wading around in too much exposition or bothering to get everyone caught up. Considering that, you should run out and grab up the earlier “Kill Shakespeare” comics so you can get caught up. It’s really worth it. Especially for Shakespeare nuts.
Final Verdict: 8.1 – A strong buy, but you should catch up with the old issues.