Monday, September 26, 2011

Kill Shakespeare

For some people, reading Shakespeare is worse than torture. High school students everywhere groan about having Renaissance literature shoved down their throats. College students go even more in depth with the subject while Shakespearean experts share every detail that is stored in their heads. And then there are the people who actually like the stuff. People like the creators of this fine comic entitled Kill Shakespeare. 
In this story, characters from many of the Bard’s plays drop in and out of the storyline, all adding together to make a brand new thing from the centuries-old framework. 
I think John Layman was right on the mark in his comment that was printed as a pull quote on the back of this collection:
“A fantastic concept, cleverly executed with style and smarts. Lots of cool Easter Eggs for the literary-minded, but still plenty entertaining for the rest of us dummies!”
In this story, Hamlet can pretty much be considered the main character. He is familiar to all who have read the play in his name...he’s a sulky kind of fellow and he mourns the death of his father. Then things get a little wacky on us. He is recruited to do a special mission for a certain king named Richard III. Richard’s demand is that Hamlet find and kill a man named William Shakespeare. 
Shakespeare is a mysterious man and he doesn’t even show up in these six issues. He’s hiding somewhere, and it’s presented like he is the second coming of Jesus. People in this world believe in Shakespeare and there are many (like Richard) who see that as nothing but a threat. It’s not very well explained at this point, but I’m thinking that Richard and Co. like making their own choices rather than those prescribed by Shakespeare.
So yes, your enjoyment of Kill Shakespeare might have something to do with your general tolerance of the original plays and your familiarity and enjoyment of the many memorable Shakespearean characters. A high point of this book for me was when Hamlet and Falstaff hid in an inn while being disguised as women. The ruse didn’t hold up for very long and soon the two men were off traipsing through the woods in said disguises. Now would this be funny under any circumstances? Yes, but I always did like Falstaff and all of his blathering in the Henry IV plays. 
If I was to criticize Kill Shakespeare Volume One as a collection, I’d have to say that there’s not quite enough story yet. Not enough has happened. I was hoping we’d at least see Shakespeare since everyone’s out to kill the guy. But I’ll be patient and wait to see what happens next. I’m guessing that writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col are kind of new to this game so it’s easy to give them a chance, particularly when the book’s core concept is so strong. I like the art of Andy Belanger. His style is reminding me of Pia Guerra’s for some reason. Although the subject matter is vastly different between the two books, I’m seeing some shades of Y The Last Man here. 
Kill Shakepeare just has to be picked up to be believed (and perhaps even understood). It’s taken some pretty old stuff and turned it all into an exciting new story. Looking forward to seeing what happens next and which characters show up!

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