BreakingModern — “A man can die but once.”
If only these words of the memorable character Feeble, from Henry IV Part 2, rang true.
Kill Shakespeare brings beloved (and hated) characters together in a mash-up world where the Bard’s greatest heroes and darkest villains are pitted against each other in efforts to find the mysterious wizard, William Shakespeare. Pretty cool premise, huh?
If you’ve never heard of the series, Kill Shakespeare is like what Fables did to fairy tales and Unwritten did for young wizards and the world of Harry Potter. Created by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, and illustrated by Andy Balanger, Kill Shakespeare brings to life an alternate universe where the Shakespearian cast of characters meet up. All the action, adventure, murder, tragedy, romance and comedic humor that defined modern literature thrives once again.
Kill Shakespeare’s Premise Explained
The comic opens with false starts and shaky beginnings. Half the world believes everything that has gone wrong in society (all tragedy, death and grief) is committed by the wizard William Shakespeare, while the other half believes he is actually the all-powerful creator, and if they wait long enough for him to show up, all the drama will be resolved.
The tale begins with the King of Denmark and the moment Hamlet is banished from his country. On Hamlet’s sea journey, he vanishes and appears in the new world. One side immediately explains to Hamlet that if he kills the evil wizard, his father will be returned to life, while the other side says that will trigger the second coming. In this new world, Hamlet is known as the “Shadow King” and is the prophesized being who will help save them all.
Despite the gratuitous amounts 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 might have had horrid experiences with Shakespeare all through high school) to not 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.
For BMod, I’m Cassandra Chin.