COMIC REVIEW: Kill Shakespeare Volume 1: A Sea of Troubles

Collects issues 1 – 6

Writers – Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery

Artists – Andy Belanger, Ian Herring and Kagan McLeod

Lets start off with a brief description of the story from the books website shall we, www.killshakespeare.com.

 

“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.”

Now I should start this review with some what of a confession, Mr Shakespeare and myself do not have the best of histories, my first Shakespeare experience was in high school like most people, and that is it really all, and of that I don’t remember it that well.

With that in mind I started reading this wondering whether this would help or hinder my enjoyment of this book, yes I may miss some of the more subtle acknowledgements of the source material, but, I have no preconceived notions coming into this story where many of Shakespeare’s characters are inhabiting a new world together.

This story opens with a brief explanation of past events that lead to Hamlet being banished from his homeland of Denmark, the story then starts in the current time line with Hamlet visiting his fathers grave one last time before he embarks on a voyage to England, whilst at sea he is visited by a spirit that talks to him of his destiny and calls him the Shadow King, the ship then suffers an attack by pirates.

Hamlet wakes up, washed up on a beach surrounded by four shadowy people, one claiming Hamlet to be ‘his’, this turns out to be none other than Richard the Third.

What follows is a dark story with plenty of action, deception and manipulation, betrayal and rebellion, but is ultimately about Hamlet finding his way and fulfilling his destiny.

The story itself goes along at a quick pace which kept me engaged, the book has  plenty of good action set pieces that flow really well, the writers have managed to keep humour in the book and balanced this with the darker elements of the story so that neither overpowers.

The writers have made a brave attempt to word this story in an way that is accessible to any and all readers but at the same time retain the style of the original source material, so you get an old style of speech but it is easier to digest.

The dialogue works for the most part, the character Flastaff is so far the main source of the funny one liners and is good for a chuckle, I did also like the lyrical melody of Puck and the spirits dialogue as well, I hope there is more like this in further issues.

The script work surprisingly well, with only a couple of points that jar and the writers should be proud of the result.

I really liked the use of the characters in this book and the idea of bringing them all into one world. The  characters used for the rebels and the bad guys are perfect choices, Richard the Third is a great choice for one of the main bad guys and the writers really go for it with him, he manipulates, double crosses and at times is quite brutal, all in the name of getting what he wants.

When we first meet Richard he presents himself as a  good King besieged by rebellious warmongers intent on causing chaos in the name of William Shakespeare and he is desperate for Hamlets help as is foretold in a prophecy. But we quickly start to see his dark side as he starts manipulating Hamlet for his own gains.

There is one scene in a village where he acts the noble and fair King while in the presence of Hamlet, once Hamlet leaves he orders his men to burn the village, slaughter the livestock and kill all the male children, the close up of Richards face while he issues this order is chilling.

Hamlet’s character progress’s nicely as the story unfolds, he starts out naive, buying into what Richard tells him at the start of the book but his eyes are opened more and more as he experiences Richard’s kingdom and you start to see the makings of the hero from the prophecy.

This book does have it’s darker elements as well, and for me more the better for it, Hamlet’s dreams and visitations from spirits are very dark in tone, one in particular that involves his father is especially chilling. The scenes that involve the main bad guys, when they are not trying to fool anyone,  are either dark, creepy or just plain brutal, one scene in which Richard punishes a soldier for his failure shows you how unhinged Richard is.

The art of Kill Shakespeare is very good. It’s clean, expressive and the characters and environments are all interesting in their appearance. The colour tones used with this story felt appropriate, worked well and matched what the story was telling us throughout.

I felt there were a few miss-steps where the faces looked wrong, admittedly I am being very picky with this, but it is because I liked the art in the rest of the book as much as I did. Some of the panels are very striking indeed, capturing the madness of King Richard or the rage in Othello as he charges into battle.

I liked the ending to this part of the story, it was a good cliffhanger and got me interested in what would be coming next.

There is the standard extra of a gallery of images, these further show the talent of the artists involved, my favourite being the last, a picture of Juliet in front of a crowd of supporters.

The other extra is a short story called “Et, tu Hecate” which was a nice short read.

All in all an enjoyable book, I don’t think it matters whether you are a big fan of the original source material or not, there is something here for all types of readers.

8/10

GS Reviewer: Glen Davies

 

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