Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Will you free us from the tyranny of William Shakespeare?

In my quest to expand my graphic novel/comic book knowledge*, I decided to give Kill Shakespeare Vol 1, written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, with art by Andy Belanger a try. Cos, you know, Shakespeare. Seems like a good bridge between things I like and things I want to like.

This is only the second graphic novel I've read that was more along the lines of, at least what I think of as, a traditional comic. I've read Maus I & II, Fun Home, and Hyperbole & A Half which are really their own thing. I also read The Watchmen back when the movie came out and I borrowed it from my brother and I thought it was...fine. Later I tried the first issue of The Walking Dead and gave up after about 10 pages when I realized I was barely skimming it. I've found the style difficult to get into. I fly through the panels with no speech, missing every detail and I have trouble slowing myself down. All of this is to say I went in with some trepidation but ultimately everything worked out.

Kill Shakespeare is a mash-up of all of the most well-known Shakespeare characters: Hamlet and Richard III and the Macbeths and Falstaff and Juliet and Othello and Iago AND MORE! The plot is its own thing. It opens with Hamlet waking up on an unknown shore. Hamlet got on that boat with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, but a vision by a specter calling him the Shadow King and a pirate attack changes the course of the original play a bit.

Richard III finds Hamlet and strikes up a deal with him. See Hamlet's arrival has apparently been predicted by the stars and he's fated to be this Shadow King. The Three Witches (from Macbeth) will bring Hamlet's father back to life if Hamlet will find the wizard Shakespeare and bring Richard his quill. Richard's teamed up with the Macbeths and Iago in the hopes of gaining power and in general being jerks. As they do.
During the journey to find this Shakespeare, Hamlet gets separated from Iago and winds up with Falstaff who introduces him to Juliet and Othello. The three of them are very much on the side of this wizard Shakespeare and just as Richard III said it was prophesied he would show up and help them kill Shakespeare (like the title!), Falstaff believes the prophesy means Hamlet is supposed to find Shakespeare and bring him back to defend his believers.

Who to trust? Well, I mean, we know but will Hamlet figure it out? What will happen if Richard III gets all the power he desires? Will Juliet be able to help the believers?

If comics aren't really your thing but Shakespeare is, I would give this a try. There are lots of references to the original plays thrown in here and there but overall you don't need to know the plays to enjoy this. Though I do think it'll help. Some of the layouts I really liked, especially those of Hamlet and Falstaff wandering through the forest. And others I was less into. Some of the battle scenes that I think were supposed to be really tense made me laugh. Female representation isn't bad. It isn't great. There are really only 2 main female characters (Lady Macbeth and Juliet) compared to 5 guys, but given the character pool we're working with, it's not super surprising. They also sort of fall into 2 typical "strong female character" tropes, but given most of the characters fall into some sort of stereotype, it's again not super surprising.

I've been on the lookout for Volume 2, though so far no luck. But I will keep my eye out for it cos I would like to see where this story goes. It's not my favorite graphic novel (when you're up against Maus it's really not fair), but I enjoyed. And I'll slowly make my way into more graphic novels.

Gif Rating

*If you want a great list of graphic novels to check out, but you're not really sure what to go for, take a look at Kayleigh's post Pages to Panels: A Bookish Guide to Getting Into Comics. It has given me a BUNCH to pick up. Cos my TBR wasn't long enough.

Title quote from some page but I dunno which one cos there are no page numbers. Early-ish

Belanger, Andy, Anthony Del Col, Conor McCreery. Kill Shakespeare: A Sea of Troubles (Volume 1). IDW Publishing, 2010.