aNewDomain — Kill Shakespeare brings together the most loved — and most hated — of the Bard’s characters in a world where they are pitted against each other to find the mysterious wizard called William Shakespeare.
Makes you want to read more, right?
Kill Shakespeare is a comic that provides a new take on the original, much like Fables did for fairy tales or what Unwritten did for the wizards and witches of Harry Potter. Created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, and illustrated by Andy Balanger, Kill Shakespeare brings us into an alternate universe where Shakespeare’s most famous characters are all tossed together. All of the adventure, murder, action, romance, intrigue and comedic humor you’ve come to expect from the Bard thrives in a new twist on the old stories.
“A man can die but once.”
If only these words spoken by the memorable character Feeble, from Henry IV Part 2, rang true.
As the comic begins, half of the world believes that everything wrong with society — all the tragedy, death and grief — is the fault of the wizard William Shakespeare. The other half believes that Will is, in fact, the all-powerful creator and that if they wait for him he will resolve all of the drama.
The story begins with the King of Denmark when Hamlet is banished from his country. On Hamlet’s journey across the sea, he vanishes and appears in the new alternate universe. One side quickly explains that if Hamlet kills the evil wizard, Shakespeare, his beloved father will be returned to life. The other side explains that this act would, in fact, trigger the second coming. Hamlet, known in this new world as the “Shadow King,” is the being prophesied to save them all.
Despite the gratuitous number of Shakespearian terms and references, you don’t have to be a huge fan of the Bard’s work to be able to follow along. That’s me telling you (who may have had horrid experiences with Shakespeare all through high school) not to worry, and to definitely, absolutely, pick up this comic. It’s brilliant.
For those who love the classical works of Shakespeare, you will not be disappointed — lots of little tidbits (eyes pried out via King Lear) and Easter Eggs are waiting for you. The nod to Shakespeare’s works is evident and continues to grow as the series expands.
I won’t tell you who is on which side, because that would just spoil everything, but if you’re aware of the characters, you can take a guess and you’ll likely be right. That said, I’m thrilled by how McCreery and Del Col have developed and grown the characters.
When you first meet Hamlet he is still grieving for the death of his father and, as an innocent man, is quite conflicted in his new role. Yet he offers strong leadership, just like the “real” Hamlet.
Juliet is no longer the weeping, tragic girl (I once despised) and has grown into a caliber general leading a revolution. Trusty Falstaff continues to provide caution and humor in one fell swoop, while Othello, though still haunted by his ghosts, finds a new purpose in life.
Othello’s counter, Iago, once again plays a star role in Othello’s conflicting thoughts and feelings, and darling Richard III is still a conniving bastard (and I like him even less than I did when reading the play). Lady Macbeth, of “Out damned spot! Out, I say!” fame, exudes new confidence and serious powers. It’s certainly an interesting take.
Meanwhile Romeo … Ah, Romeo, oh, Romeo. What can I say about him? Thou still irritate the hell out of me. Romeo and Juliet was one of my least-liked Shakespeare plays. Tragic romance by two foolhardy teenagers? No thanks.
In the place of a truly powerful wizard/god, the beloved William Shakespeare is psychologically damaged and conflicted about his own world and his place in it. His control over his weapon, the quill, is part of why some seek to destroy him.
Each of the characters play an intricate role in Kill Shakespeare‘s fantastic plot, and new players take the stage with each chapter. The first 12 issues (first two volumes) are the backbone of the story — where characters get to know each other, are introduced (and die, again) and argue whether or not Shakespeare exists. The third volume (five issues) follows the crew as they enter new adventures and challenges on the Island of Prospero.
Again, fan of Shakespeare or not, this comic series is definitely one to keep an eye on. Go out, pick it up, and settle in for a great read. The magic of the quill will enchant you, perhaps like Shakespeare himself once did.
Body image: Screenshot by Cassandra Chin
Featured image: Shakespeare by Kurtis Garbutt via Flickr