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Graphic Novel Review: Kill Shakespeare Volume 1 by McCreery, Del Col and Belanger

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Written by Pirata Hermosa

Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William Shakespeare’s plays had turned out differently? What would happen to Hamlet if he had fled Denmark instead of avenging his father’s death? What would have become of Juliet if she had not killed herself? What about Othello, Iago, or Lady Macbeth? If you’ve ever wanted to see more stories with some of the world’s most famous characters, then you are in luck, because that’s the idea behind the currently running 12-issue comic book series by IDW Publishing.

Instead of Hamlet brooding and trying to find a way to get revenge on his uncle, he ends up fleeing the country after he accidentally kills Polonius. Setting sail on a ship with his companions Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he heads for England. But before they can arrive they are caught in a tempest that destroys their vessel. Hamlet awakens to find himself in Richard III’s castle. The king promises the prince that he will resurrect his father, but first he must do him a favor. He must find and kill William Shakespeare.

Led to believe that Shakespeare is an evil wizard/god, Hamlet sets forth on his journey accompanied by his trusty new friend, Iago. But before they can complete their journey, the group is attacked by bandits. Falstaff suddenly appears and rescues the young prince. He tells the prince that he is a follower of the great savior William Shakespeare and that his coming is a good thing. To try and convince Hamlet that he speaks the truth Falstaff brings him to the leader of the rebellion, Juliet, and her trusted general Othello.

Now Hamlet has seen both sides and must decide who is telling the truth. Will he finally become a man of action? Is there a romance brewing between him and Juliet? Is Iago really his friend? What is Richard III going to do with the quill of Shakespeare, and what are Lady Macbeth’s true motives? There are plenty of questions that will need to be answered in the second half of the series.

The first six issues have been packaged into a graphic novel that contains a few bonuses, much like a DVD. The “Bonus Gallery” includes “Et tu, Hecate?” which is a small comic depicting the death of Caesar at the hands of Brutus. This is followed by a couple of artist’s renderings of scenes from the graphic novel and the artwork of all the original covers thus far.

The cover art is much darker-themed than the interior art. Not only is it conveyed in odd washed-out colors, but it actually clashes with what you will find inside, which feels lighter and livelier with a more traditional comic appearance once you open the pages.

The story itself is a fairly typical fantasy adventure in which you have the hero trying to fulfill his destiny by following an old prophecy. He is the chosen one and is the only one capable of stopping a greater evil, while both sides, good and evil, try to help or hinder his ultimate goal.

What distinguishes this from an ordinary tale, which has been done many times before, are the characters. They are such iconic personas ingrained in the mind of society that not only does everyone have a favorite, but the fact that they have all been released into the same world makes for unlimited possibilities. And with most of the main characters having been in the Shakespearean tragedies where they were killed, murdered, or took their own lives, seeing them break free from their traditional roles with the possibility of personal growth is infinitely intriguing. Every time you turn the page you find a new personality plucked from yet another of the famous bard’s plays.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Shakespeare, it’s easy to enjoy the story and you won’t have to read it in poetry form or in Elizabethan English. But if you are a fan, it’s even more fun because you already know the quality of the individual and will get some of the inside jokes that arise.

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Formerly known as The Masked Movie Snobs, the gang has unmasked, reformed as Cinema Sentries, and added to their ranks as they continue to deliver quality movie and entertainment coverage on the Internet.
  • Jim

    Shakespeare did not write in Middle English … Are you thinking of Chaucer? Otherwise, nice review.

  • Bill Sherman

    You’re right. T’was Elizabethan English – it’s been corrected.

  • Pirata Hermosa

    Good catch, I don’t know why that popped into my head while writing. I did take a year of both Chaucer and Shakespeare in college so I should not have made such a Faux Pax.