We’re back for more Kill Shakespeare by McCreery, Del Col and Belanger. Last time I was impressed but felt there was some need for improvement, so let’s see how the back-six of this 12 issue series fare.
Issue Seven, The Play’s the Thing is almost a standalone tale of our heroes, Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, and Falstaff, out at a play that happens to be put on by a group of players made up of some of Shakespeare’s comedies. That’s enough to sell me right there: as I mentioned last time, I’m a big fan of the Shakespearian Comedies, but more than that: this issue is just perfect. This should have been issue #1 as far as I’m concerned; it is simply a perfect piece of fiction.
While at the play Hamlet is called on-stage in a bit of fun, but is overcome when the play too closely resembles his own tragic back-story. He flees and is followed by Juliet, and the two reveal their sordid pasts to each other tearfully — it’s just great, emotional, character-driven dialog and it is possibly the best thing I’ve read in quite some time. I could write a whole glowing review just on this.
The issue also functions as something of a introduction, just in case you missed the first trade. It really accomplishes a lot, introducing all the main characters and having some fun at the same time. The art by Belanger is pitch perfect. This is the rarest thing in comics — a perfect issue. Things are looking good for this trade.
Issue eight may be my favorite of the series thus far, with a strong focus on Othello and Iago’s relationship. The two, who were soldiers in their own Shakespearian epic, teach the new recruits — and as Iago narrates the best way to defeat an enemy, Othello recalls his own defeat at the hands of Iago; especially the death of Desdemona. It’s here we remember that by modern standards, Othello isn’t always a sympathetic character. These pages are done with expert writing and artistry, perfectly encapsulating the characters.
In many way the second half of this series proves a better introduction to it than the first. It functions very well giving the background of all the characters in a natural and organic way to sucks you in to the tale presented. At when you’re invested in the characters, you’re invested in what will happen to them and the story as a whole. I find that maybe that was what was missing from the collection of the first six issues, but is definitely present here.
All of the characters are getting to know each other as well — Othello and Hamlet are bonding, and Juliet and Hamlet are growing close after last issue and beginning a relationship together. All in all I’d say each issue is getting better and better, and the cliffhanger of this chapter does not involve the ongoing plot with Shakespeare, put the relationship forged in this issue — with the return of Romeo.
The story then takes an interesting turn as the players – Romeo included – descend on the Globe Woods, a place only Hamlet can enter. He then comes face to face with Shakespeare, and the two come to verbal blows just as Iago comes to physical ones with the rest outside. Iago has been revealed as a traitor, and it seems as though there are layers to the prophecy that brought them here that only he knew: about an enchanted dagger that could kill them both.
What follows is probably the best story I’ve read in quite some time — a hero’s journey for Hamlet and William Shakespeare alike, leading to the epic battle between Hamlet’s forces and King Richard, Lady MacBeth, and Iago. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment in these next few issues — they’re pretty much perfect pieces of fiction and I read them one after another, not taking the time to stop and comment on them between. They’re truly amazing works of fiction.
All the pacing problems I felt present in the first volume are gone. I feel this story had a slow build and a dramatic, wonderful conclusion — I suggest picking up the hardcover edition with all 12 issues contained therein. I think that would be the definitive way to view this title. Not as single issues, not as trades: as one massive omnibus. And it’s worth it, this is an amazing story with a great conclusion worthy of entry into the halls of epic fantasy along with The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Not only is it high-octane excitement, but the truest example of comic books as an art-form: telling a new story while paying tribute to the past. And here we are: Kill Shakespeare. Not kitsch, not the death of literature: the height of narrative storytelling in comic book form.
Kudos to McCreery, Del Col, and Belanger.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Not only is it high-octane excitement, but the truest example of comic books as an art-form: telling a new story while paying tribute to the past. And here we are: Kill Shakespeare. Not kitsch, not the death of literature: the height of narrative storytelling in comic book form.”