Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col – Comics Review [Shadowhawk]

Kill_Shakespeare

Shadowhawk reviews his first ever comic series, the extremely popular and successful alternate take on the Great Bard’s greatest plays.

Kill Shakespeare is an intense, thrilling, and a highly exciting narrative that is full of crazy puns and references galore to Shakespeare’s various plays, all of which combine to deliver one of the best reading experiences ever!” ~The Founding Fields

 I’ve long been a fan of comics and the various stories spawned from them in other mediums, going back some 17 or 18 years. My first ever English pleasure read happened to be a James Bond comic even; those were good days. While I didn’t exactly grow up in a society and way of life that has been heavily inspired by comics such as is the case in the Western World and in Japan, I dare say that I’ve read comics quite widely, culturally speaking. As a kid, I was quite chummy with various Indian heroes and superheroes such as Nagraj, Doga, Super Commando Dhruv, Shaaka, Parmanu, Billoo, Chacha Choudhary and many others. In college, it all continued with G.I.Joe, He-man, Star Wars, Superman, various other DC characters, some X-men stuff, Warhammer and so on. Not as varied reading as many of my friends have engaged in over the years but still, I’ve read widely enough.

And it all continued until quite recently when I picked up the double volumes of IDW Publishing’s Kill Shakespeare comics, following a chat with one of the creators, Conor McCreery, at the Middle East Film and Comic Con. I know of IDW through author extraordinaire Matt Forbeck, who is quickly becoming one of my favourites, and so I’d been thinking of picking up some of their works anyway. The Comic Con gave me the necessary impetus, although I regret not being able to pick up print copies of the comic since they were double sold-out over the course of the event! Thankfully, the comics industry and embraced digitization with gusto.

Kill Shakespeare blurb:

An epic adventure that will change the way you look at Shakespeare forever.

In this dark tale, the Bard’s most famous heroes embark upon a journey to discover a long-lost soul.  Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff, Romeo and Puck search for a reclusive wizard who may have the ability to assist them in their battle against the evil forces led by the villains Richard III, Lady Macbeth and Iago.  That reclusive wizard?  William Shakespeare.

A combination of “Fables”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Lord of the Rings”, Kill Shakespeare offers a remixed re-envisioning of the greatest characters of all-time, featuring action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence.  It is an adventure of Shakespearean proportions.

And let me tell you, each of those points is well and truly correct because Kill Shakespeare is indeed a very unique experience. Irrespective of how much familiarity you have with the Great Bard, the series is still fun and compelling. Of course, if you’ve read a lot of his plays and remember a lot of their narratives, then there are callbacks and references aplenty.

The series begins with Hamlet being exiled from his homeland, following the death of his father and his misguided attempt at seeking revenge that ends with the death of a friend at his own hands. From there on, events pick up the pace as he becomes caught in a storm and later finds himself a guest of King Richard, a noble and benevolent ruler whose lands are plagued by rebels. Things are not always as they seem however and Hamlet’s journey in an attempt to bring back his lost father is equal parts heartbreaking and fun.

Where to start really. As someone who has only read the play versions of Macbeth and Twelfth Night and heavily abridged versions of some of Shakespeare’s other plays, Kill Shakespeare is a beautifully-imagined world that has something for everyone. We have the endless scheming of Richard and Lady Macbeth, the heroisms of Othello and Romeo, the villainy of Iago, the good-natured foolishness of Falstaff, the faith of Romeo, the courage of Juliet, and amongst all of them, Hamlet’s drive for vindication. There are twists and turns in every issue as the writers move the reader ever closer to that inevitable meeting between Hamlet and Shakespeare himself. There is love and romance, betrayal and friendship.

Its not something that is easy to describe for me. I burned through the two volumes in less than two days and every single moment of the reading experience was, in its own way, unique. For myself, I think being largely unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s plays really worked to draw me in because while the overarching narrative is very, very different from the plays themselves, certain character arcs are quite surprising. You never really can predict what is going to happen next. Will Iago betray Othello, Juliet and Hamlet? Will Lady Macbeth and King Richard succeed in their nefarious scheming? Is Hamlet really the prophecied Shadow King who is going to bring the god-magician Will Shakespeare back?

The series raises many such questions and as far as I can tell, it answers almost all of them. Some scenes have you cheering for the bad guys, others for the good guys. Its all quite frankly a rollercoaster ride, one that you don’t want to get down from.

Anthony and Conor’s excellent writing is complemented extremely well by the artistic talents of Andy B (artist), Ian Herring (colourist) and Kagan McLeod (cover art) who brought their words to visual life. The visuals are the heart and soul of a comic, and Kill Shakespeare is no exception in that regard. Every panel is beautifully rendered and a great amount of detail has gone into each issue. Whenever it seemed like the plot was slowing down, it was the visuals that kept me going and turning the pages. Plus, all that artwork is seriously awesome. Very different to what you usually see on comic covers, as far as I can tell from my (somewhat) limited experience.

After all, it was a brief chat with Conor and seeing the artwork posters and tees for the two volumes at IDW’s booth that convinced me to buy the comics.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Kill Shakespeare and I’ll recommend the series to everyone. It is fantastic and one hell of a ride through Shakespeare’s creations. The reimagining has paid off as far as I’m concerned.

Collective rating for Volumes 1 and 2: 10/10

For more Kill Shakespeare goodness, you can visit the official website: http://www.killshakespeare.com/

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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