I had the great honor of being nearby the Kill Shakespeare table in artist alley at Emerald City Comic Con 2014. Not only were they great neighbors (as people can tell you, that doesn’t happen all that much in artist alley) but they also had a great comic as well! I was only able to grab volume one, since I had to make a flight back to California, then Japan, but it was well worth getting.
Published by IDW, Kill Shakespeare is a great blend of the familiar and the new, with all the spirit of Shakespeare’s works. The writing is a pretty good blend of styles (modern and Shakespearean) that the reader feels like they’re in that world, but still very approachable and understandable. There are moments in the beginning when the language felt a little choppy (the styles are hard to mix), but it got a lot better as the book went on. The story pits Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Fallstaff against King Richard, Lady Macbeth and Iago: the latter are trying to find, and kill, a reclusive wizard by the name of William Shakespeare, while the former are hell-bent on stopping Richard’s tyranny.
The plot flows at a good pace, and there is plenty of action. It is also does have quite an amount of hacking, slashing, stabbing and de-eye-ing, so if you’re the squeamish type it probably isn’t your cup of tea. The violence and gore isn’t too over the top though, and it fits the atmosphere of the story quite nicely. And speaking of the art, it has a really unique style and I especially love the composition of the larger panels and full-page spreads. Those are hard to do, but when done well, they really do a lot for a comic.
One high point for me was how awesome Juliet is portrayed. It really is nice to see a Juliet that I can really rally behind, especially when she dons some rather bad-ass armor to battle against the forces of King Richard. I also really like Falstaff and Othello, and the interactions between the main group are really fun to read. The only gripe I really have is, while small, something that is a personal pet peeve of mine: the sexy evil of Lady Macbeth. Yes, I get she’s evil and a pretty lady, but do her boobs have to be precariously almost always falling out of whatever incredibly low-cut top she’s wearing? I get that she uses her sexuality as a weapon, but evil and super sexy lady characters have just gotten a bit tiresome to me. Honestly, I’m finding Iago a much more compelling villain, as you’re never really sure what side he’s on, and he does make you question your prejudice against him. I think a lot of my enjoyment did stem from the fact that I’m pretty well versed in the Shakespeare plays, so seeing all these stories play out together was really enjoyable for me.
All in all, however, Kill Shakespeare is a fun series. I’ve not had a chance to read volume 2 or 3 yet, but I did get a chance to read Mask of the Night #1-4 and I can say that the story still has its momentum, and for sure I need to get my hands on the parts I haven’t read yet, to catch up on the whole story!