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Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col – Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 1

April 8, 2011

45. Kill Shakespeare, Volume 1 by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, Andy Belanger, Ian Herring (2010)
Kill Shakespeare, Volume 1

Length: 148 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Literary Fantasy (in the sense of “literary” that means “about literature”, not the sense that means “pretentious.”)

Started / Finished: 23 March 2011

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? It was not that long ago that this went on my wishlist, but I honestly can’t remember. Best guess is that I spotted it on my library’s new books RSS feed. In any case, yay Shakespeare!

If Shakespeare knew his
characters would revolt, he’d
have made them nicer.

Summary: Kill Shakespeare takes place in a world where all of Shakespeare’s characters exist at the same time, and are ruled over by the remote, god-like wizard William Shakespeare. This world has a prophecy that the Shadow King will be the only one who can find Shakespeare, and there several factions are trying to manipulate that prophecy to their own ends. When Richard III finds Hamlet (freshly exiled from Denmark by Claudius) shipwrecked on his shores, he becomes convinced that Hamlet is the Shadow King, and with the help of Lady MacBeth, Iago, and the Weird Sisters, sets him in motion to find Shakespeare and steal his Quill, an object of magic and power. However, Richard’s plans are opposed by a group – led by Juliet and Othello – that seek Shakespeare to return him to the benevolent rule of his people, and they also have plans for Hamlet.

Review: Kill Shakespeare is to the Bard’s works what Fables is to the Brothers Grimm & Co, although with a little less whimsy and a little more bloodshed. I love stories about stories, and I generally enjoy Shakespeare-related stuff, so I was bound to think that the premise of this series was a fantastic one. The execution is thus far intriguing as well; I’m not entirely caught up by the heroes vs. villains prophecy stuff, but just watching the characters from various plays interact is fascinating enough to keep me reading. The writing is such that you don’t have to be a Shakespeare fanatic to follow along; the characters keep their personalities, but the action is new and doesn’t require much knowledge about the details of any particular play. There are plenty of little in-jokes to keep fans happy, but I actually would have been okay if the plot had required more insider knowledge than it does. I was also not thrilled to realize that Hamlet was the focal character; he’s less annoyingly mopey here than he is at home, but I actually found the transition to Hamlet, Man of Action to be disconcertingly out of character.

I was also not terribly in love with the artwork. There’s a lot of action (read: violence), which is not necessarily a problem in and of itself (and does fit the subject matter), but there’s only so many ways to draw a panel of someone getting stabbed before I start to zone out. The best adjective I can come up with for the artwork is “lurid”: bright, almost neon colors, plenty of corpses and ghosts and bloodshed, lots of open-mouth reaction shots, Lady MacBeth’s gravity-defying chest, etc. Not bad, per se, but not exactly to my taste, either.

Still, there were plenty of good bits – lines that made me laugh, solid character moments, etc. – and I’m interested enough in the idea to see how it plays out, at least for another few volumes. I’m not exactly blown away yet, but any time you can get Hamlet in a dress (supplied by Falstaff) fly-tackling one of Richard III’s soldiers in an attempt to save Juliet? I’m on board. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s definitely in the same vein as Fables and The Unwritten, so fans of those or other literary comics who also have a fondness for the Bard should certainly give Kill Shakespeare a try.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Fashionista Piranha
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Arise, Shadow King…”

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2011 2:19 pm

    My 7th graders are currently in the midst of my unit on Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve a feeling a few of them would get into this book.

    • April 11, 2011 10:51 am

      C.B. – Maybe? It might be a little bit graphic for 7th graders, though… although I’m a terrible judge of things like that. Not that it’s really any worse than some of what’s in Shakespeare itself, though.

  2. April 9, 2011 2:41 pm

    Sounds amusing, though I really am enjoying Fables (I’ve only read the first three collections). I’m not sure if I’ve read enough Shakespeare to get all the plotting, perhaps.

    Why must comic book artists insist on drawing female characters with huge boobs? It annoys me!

    • April 11, 2011 10:53 am

      Ela – To their credit, it’s only Lady MacBeth with the gravity-defying chest, which is actually pretty in-character for her. Juliet and the other women look a lot more normal.

  3. April 10, 2011 6:32 pm

    More bloodshed than in Fables? That must be an awful lot of bloodshed, because Fables is pretty grim. I can think of a few choice moments that were gruuuuuuuuuuuesome.

    • April 11, 2011 10:54 am

      Jenny – No, it’s true, there are some brutal parts of Fables. But the violence in Kill Shakespeare seems more unrelenting, somehow. Maybe it’s just the brighter colors?

  4. April 12, 2011 12:58 pm

    Adding it to me “to read” list. Thanks!

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