I am a lit geek. When looking around for which type of geek that I am, that is the label that I pick first. It might seem a little weird to be talking about my love of all things literary on a comic blog, but the truth is that I don’t make the distinction. To me (and a growing number of others) comics are literary. They’re a genre just like any other and they deserve to be taken just as seriously.
This definitely was part of the reason why I let out a truly unnatural squeal of delight when I got my hands on the Kill Shakespeare trade paperback. Okay, I’ll admit that I was a little late to the party, but the important thing to remember is the fact that I bothered to show up at all. Here it was, a comic series that combined two of my all time loves: Shakespeare and comics. It wasn’t just a retelling of the plays, done up with pictures but with familiar shorelines. No, this was better. KS has managed to revamp and revive the plays, reformatting them into a cross-play battle epic.
I have been a fan of reworked classics for quite some time. Already a devotee to Fables, Kill Shakespeare would have had me from that end even if I didn’t already enjoy reworked Shakespeare. But I’m a bit of a Bard Nut (okay, understatement of the year) so I was immediately hooked. But I get that it could be a pretty hard sell to those who might be turned off because of latent high school English flashbacks. Never fear! I am here to give you three good reasons why Kill Shakespeare is well worth the effort.
1. Olde English is Not an Issue.
One of the toughest (and prettiest) things about Shakespeare in general is the language. Oh sure, it has stood the test of time, but more often than not it comes off like something that is going to require the reader to need a translator. Sure we have sayings from the Bard peppered through our daily lives (ie: “it was Greek to me” and “heart of gold”) but that doesn’t mean that reading the originals isn’t sometimes a bit like chewing on glass. I am not going to say that this series isn’t without its fair share of “thous” and “wouldsts” but it is surprisingly easily to read despite that. It enhances the story, helping to immerse the reader further into the story rather than distract them. Besides, after the first few pages you’ll hardly notice that there is anything off about the word usage at all (except you might be a little more inclined to say “shall”).
2. The Art.
The art is amazing. No seriously, pardon me while I go and get some serious stars in my eyes over Kagan McLeod’s fabulous covers. The cover art is both simple and stunning and it just grabs the eye in a way that a good cover just should. That being said the art between the pages (or the meat, if you were) is also fantastic. Artist Andy Belanger has a way of making each character very easy to identify (even when doing a distance shot). The action scenes just feel right, with just the right amount of gore. My favourite character is Lady Macbeth, who looks every bit the beautiful seductress and mastermind. You can see why people would want to follow after her.
Though I’m not saying that storyline set up and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col isn’t fabulous. There’s an intricacy to the plot, a mystery that not only has been thoughtfully set up but so far wonderfully executed. There’s the right balance between levity and seriousness which is sometimes hard to find. It truly is a great collaborative effort on everyone’s parts.
3. Playing Spot the Character
No matter how it was that you took your Shakespeare before now, it is fantastic to see well-known characters in a new light. I am not just talking about Hamlet (who comes off like much less of a drip this time around), but any number of the other characters who show up in roles of varying sizes. Now we have Juliet Capulet, no longer suicidal love-lorn teenager, but something akin to a warrior princess willing to do her part to bring justice. Who is hanging around to help her? Why it’s Othello, who not only has to deal with the overarching plot afoot but the appearance of his own friend-turned-betrayer Iago. Factor in a Falstaff (and really, isn’t everything better with a Falstaff, especially one the occasionally gets dressed in drag) and you’ve got quite the merry band of heroes.
On the other side, you’ve got a positively wicked collaboration between Lady Macbeth and Richard III. With both characters still working their own agendas just as much as they are working together, it is a recipe that pretty much calls for big antics (and the likelihood for an even bigger fall).
I could probably wax about this series forever, but I am going to spare you all this and just say CHECK IT OUT. Issue #10 came out on April 20th, so it’s still new enough that the series can easily be caught up on. I recommend checking out the following places to stay current, get a run down on the story and the characters and all of that.
@Kill Shakespeare on Twitter