All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet
I will admit that I didn’t have much time during my school years to study William Shakespeare apart from the high school “Romeo & Juliet,” with little bits of “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.” However, I have lovers of Shakespeare in my life, and this is how I got the opportunity to read a unique comic titled “Kill Shakespeare.”
If Shakespeare had wanted to mash together all his stories and have the characters interact, I think he would have used the method writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col used. It surprised me the way the characters kept some of their true natures that Shakespeare created, but then changed based on the circumstances.
This new Shakespearean tale follows Hamlet after he is banished from Denmark. He is almost transported to another land where a king, Richard, wants to find a powerful god named William Shakespeare. Richard claims Shakespeare is ruining his people’s lives, but he is after power and a supposedly magic quill. Hamlet, now imagined as the Shadow King by many, is said to be able to find Shakespeare. Richard isn’t the only one in need of Hamlet: Villagers who are secretly against Richard wants their savior, Shakespeare, to return. Some rebel directly against Richard in order to save Shakespeare, led by none other than Juliet Capulet. We also stumble upon other characters, such as Falstaff, Macbeth, Othello, Iago and Puck.
“Kill Shakespeare” reminds me of a good comic book movie or a reboot: The characters are vague enough for the newbies but there are hints of geeky references for the passionate readers who know much about the characters before opening the book. This book entices the reader to go back and read Shakespeare with a renewed spirit, to learn much about the topic. Yet, a newbie, as I consider myself, can read the comic cover to cover and still get a lot of enjoyment out of the story.
There is action, deceit and a touch of romance in the delicate weaving of this story. The writers kept the “thees” and “thous” and in some sections use the poetic tones of Shakespearean literature, but most of the dialogue has a more modern tone, though a little more formal. I think this is a great approach, as it doesn’t scare off or alienate readers who have a hard time following the complex medieval language. I heard of one critic complaining that the text was not in iambic pentameter, the writing method Shakespeare used. However I think in this particular comic, it wasn’t an exact reproduction of his work but a re-creation, and the writing method by McCreedy and Del Col was the correct one.
The art, done by Andy Belanger, was detailed and cartoony that included the action words (Wham! Crack! Thwap!) typical of comic books. In this particular story, with the merge of medieval and modern, I think the cartoony approach works. The art is grounded by medieval dress, close-to-accurate settings and dark coloring. As a result, the writers avoid the cartoon coming off as goofy or childish and maintain the Shakespearean seriousness.
This trade paperback (considered the novels of comic books) is a definite must-read.
Comic Book Wednesday showcases a variety of visually based books that fit into this wide category, to give a taste of this other form of reading.