A literate mash-up of graphic novel fantasizing with the works of the Bard of Avon, Kill Shakespeare (IDW) owes much to Fables and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In all three works, familiar literary characters are flung together in a shared universe (Gentlemen, for instance, taking figures from Victorian entertainments and teaming them), though neither of the previous graphic series arguably has as high a literary pedigree as Will Shakespeare. That the source for this new series can frequently be viewed as daunting to many modern readers, though, should not deter them from checking out this appealing graphic fantasy series.
Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col’s script opens on a moment in Hamlet that we typically never see: the period where the tragic hero has been banished to England (after erroneously killing the old man Polonius) with his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in possession of a letter ordering Hamlet’s execution. Only in this version, Rosencrantz lets our hero know of the letter and our hero escapes into another realm where he’s “rescued” by the lead from one of Shakespeare’s historical plays, Richard III. To the deformed Richard, Hamlet is a prophesized figure, the Shadow King, who it is said will free them all “from the tyranny of William Shakespeare.” In a world where figures from comedies and tragedies intermingle, the playwright is viewed as a deity — and his quill a talisman of unimaginable power.
Hamlet, none too surprisingly, has his doubts, and the reader quickly realizes that for once he’s right. King Richard is in an unholy alliance with two other Globe-trotting dastards, snake-tongued Iago and Lady MacBeth, who are trying to manipulate the Dane into doing their wicked deeds for them. On the other side: comic figure Falstaff, Othello and a sword wielding Juliet Capulet.