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Graphic Novel Review: Kill Shakespeare, Volume Two: The Blast of War by McCreery, Del Col and Belanger

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Authors Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger have taken William Shakespeare and his greatest heroes and villains and put them together in a world where they either worship or detest their creator. Shakepeare is viewed as a godlike figure to some. Hamlet is the main character in both collections, and his trademark indecision is alive and well in this interpretation.

Kill Shakespeare, Volume Two: The Blast of War, nominated for a 2011 Harvey Award for best new comic series, collects the last six issues in the series, 7-12, and brings the exciting story to a conclusion.

In the first book, Kill Shakespeare Volume One: A Sea of Troubles, super-villain Richard III promised the guilt-ridden Hamlet that he would resurrect his father if Hamlet would steal Shakespeare’s magical quill. Richard III, teamed up with the murderous Lady Macbeth and others, aim to steal their creator’s quill, which can alter reality. Hamlet rejects Richard III and ends up joining the Prodigals, a band of rebels led by a very spunky Juliet and a remorseful Othello.

Readers don’t have to be well-versed in the Shakespeare plays to enjoy the comic, but knowledge of key speeches and characters does enhance the experience. Not only do main characters like Hamlet, Falstaff, and Iago populate the pages, but peripheral characters like Demetrius and Lysander from A Midsummer Night’s Dream also make an appearance.

In Volume Two, Hamlet and the Prodigals race to find Shakespeare before Richard III and Lady Macbeth and their troops. There are battle scenes galore, but Hamlet also manages to find time to fall for the lovely Juliet — what will he do now that he’s discovered that her first love Romeo is still alive? Will Hamlet be able to save Shakespeare, or will he be manipulated by the villains to kill their author and creator, possibly destroying them all in the process?

The book was entertaining, with lots of action, clever references to the Bard’s works, and bold graphic drawings. The story moved along well, keeping the suspense and excitement at an equal pitch.

The only quibble would be some of the writing. Classic Shakespearean characters have been mashed together creatively, but the writers then felt the need to have them speak with clunky “thees” and thous.” It made some of the speeches hard-going. I’m not sure iambic pentameter would have worked, either, but dialogue like …

“I will not do thy dirty work for thee. If thou wishes to die so badly, then come with me and do so on the battlefield.”

… hardly runs trippingly on the tongue.

Kill Shakespeare, Volume Two: The Blast of War includes a bonus story, “Here Never Shines the Sun,” written by Tom Waltz and drawn by Will Sliney, as well as multiple covers and additional artwork.

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