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"Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t."

25 May

In case any of you were wondering, this weeks title is a quote from Polonius, Hamlet Act 2. Hey I wouldnt expect a Shakespeare quotation in a comic review without it trying to be pretentious either but here it is amazingly apt.
If you’ll but bear with me a little you might be intruiged.
Today we are gathered here folks to talk about a series that apart from its curious name did not appear to me to be anything but another Fables like rip-off or parody or some such and thus I avoided it for the first couple of issues.
Of course me being me I could not contain my curiosity (I swear if I was a cat Id be long out of lives by now!) and had to give it a shot – the book I refer to is an intruiging new title from the fine folks at IDW, which incidentally is one of the more interesting publishers out there in terms of alternative content. Like Image and Dark Horse these guys also publish a vast mix of things from books like Peter David’s lovely, morally ambiguous, noir-like and fantasy laced Fallen Angel stories (I really like em, maybe one of these weeks if you guys are intrigued enough…?), some basic stuff like nicely rebooting the G.I.Joe franchise (better then that steaming pile of a movie…) – alongwith numerous other franchises they’ve been putting out nicely like Tank Girl, Underworld, 24, CSI, Tranformers, varied Doctor Who books including by Grant Morrison among many and recently even Godzilla! Then they have horror books like the 30 Days of Night series, carrying on TV properties like the Angel franchise (which I thought was so much better then its parent program ‘Buffy’) and of course completely independant and intriguing new titles like Fallen Angel and… the one which this post… is supposed to be about…
So on to the book then before I meander off again!

On this week’s mental menu is a recent ongoing by writers/creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery and lead artist Andy Belanger with lovely cover images by Kagan Mcleod. Yeah I know, sounds a little like a Highlander or Braveheart character list (sorry but to me it did at first, in a good way! I love em both!!)
This is a crazy book called Kill Shakespeare and is literally all about that. Not the easiest concept to explain and believe me if I can say that then its a weird one alright! But in all seriousness, this is a truly masterful piece of story-telling and re-telling as it takes characters and ideas from all over the vast world of Shakespeare and throws it all together in this marvelous mix of fantasy and literature with dashed of high adventure intrigue and power-play. In its way a fitting tribute to the Bard himself who is the inspiration and glue that holds this world together.
As the official website of the comic Ive linked above states, this is “An epic adventure that pits Shakespeare’s greatest heroes against his most frightening villains.” 

In this book we see amalgamation of various aspects of the Bards many works – our primary heroes are Hamlet (seemingly between Act 4 and 5 of the play itself which works because in Act 5 he has aged to 30 in which case he should have been made king when his father died – I realised this after some random online research! Clever me!) and suprisingly Juliet, here without a Romeo who is apparently dead as at the end of that play whereas she did not in fact die but survived.
 The roles of vile villains is aptly filled by the iconic (to fans) Lady Macbeth and King Richard III.
Banished from his kingdom after killing the wrong man, the aforementioned Polonius, in a failed attempt to kill his uncle the king to avenge his father who’s ghost has been haunting our young hero, (for those who did not know it…) Hamlet is on his way to a new land – England. Morose and fatalistic and lost, our hero is besieged by demons both within and without and eventually finds himself on a quest for his new friend Richard III because he is apparently special, referred to on several occasions as the “Shadow King”of some prophecy who is the only man who can find some special magical being called Shakespeare who is either (a) a threat to all things and evil tyrant to be destroyed or (b) the saviour of all – depending on who you believe of course.
And so we follow the journey of Hamlet and discover all the intrigues and subtleties and plans within plans at play around him and we come across a plethora of characters, some obviously familiar from the get go like Othello, and others not necessarily so to folks with limited knowledge of the plays.

In addition, the art is surprisingly suitable to the narrative as the artist has a good grasp of the characters and the visuals needed, nicely complementing the dark, gripping and occasionally violent story as it unfolds. Vibrant and unflinching, the covers also suit the feel of the book perfectly – each one a lovely and enticing work that again has the percfect feel of a modern graphic story mingled with a classic Shakesperean image.

There are people who have shown issue with the series and cry foul using their scholarly standing to belittle and pick at this book, and there have also been those who have praised it among those self-same circles.
Personally I feel that while it may not be the greatest work ever, it is a truly well written and interesting read that works so well bridging in a way the old world of Shakespeare and his works and the newer worlds of story-telling that we have now.
I would recommend checking this to any and all fans of fantasy and high adventure and of course to fans of the Bards may works – however if you are a tight-arsed purist who must have only the original English and can make no allowances in altering the sheer perfection that was Shakespeare… dont bother and possibly reassess your mind-sets.
Everyone else should have a rollicking good time regardless, whether you know the originals or not, a 12 issue saga nearing its end (#11 releases this week) that is a clever and fun adventure filled with its share of great story-telling and art.

Till next week then folks, stay shiny!