High Five! Comics

Kill Shakespeare #1: Kids Who Enjoyed Junior Year English, Rejoice!

Posted on: April 13, 2010

The soaring popularity of Alan Moore‘s League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Vertigo’s Fables has inspired a slew of seeming copycats, enough that at this point the meta-literary comic could be given its own sub-genre. This month, IDW offers up Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery’s Kill Shakespeare, a story that “pits Shakespeare’s greatest heroes against his greatest villains.”

The greatest challenge of a meta-literary comic is to integrate its source material without alienating readers unfamiliar with it. Thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio, everyone and their mother knows the basic plot of Romeo & Juliet. Kids who went to public school might recall Hamlet and Macbeth, but believe it or not there are perfectly intelligent people who’ve never actually read a single work of Shakespeare. (Because modern society is hopelessly pedestrian and the public education system is broken I tell you, BROKEN! Ahem.) Kill Shakespeare #1 clears the source material hurdle handily, making itself accessible to readers who don’t exactly know their Shakespeare. The plot more than holds up without having read Hamlet or Richard III, though of course a working knowledge of Shakespeare makes reading Kill Shakespeare a delightful exercise in Brit-Lit geekery. (Lady Macbeth as an evil villain? Yes, please!)

Kill Shakespeare‘s action sequences are, well, action-packed. While Hamlet and pals (yes, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern) are sailing to England, their ship is overrun with pirates, resulting in a six page battle rendered larger-than-life by artist Andy B. My 14 year old brother could easily be tricked into reading this book, believing it was nothing more than a totally sweet comic about pirates, ghosts and kings. (You know, if the title didn’t make it clear that it’s all derived from Shakespeare, which is like, you know, smart stuff.)

Perhaps Kill Shakespeare‘s strongest selling point is how well the book captures the epic scope of Shakespeare’s works, binding them into a merged universe. These stories aren’t just pretty poetry, even his comedies are dirty, grimy, gritty, bloody, dramatic, and to be honest they lend themselves so much to a comic book meta-universe aesthetic that I can’t believe no one’s tried it before.

You could give Kill Shakespeare to your pre-teen kids, thus tricking them into reading Shakespeare of their own accord. In fact, if I were a high school English teacher I’d be ordering Kill Shakespeare in bulk.

Fun book. I read it drinking coffee because it was the MORNING and I’m not a total alcoholic. (Geez guys). But if it’s 3pm or later, get your paws on some homemade honey mead and check out Kill Shakespeare #1, in stores April 14.

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2 Responses to "Kill Shakespeare #1: Kids Who Enjoyed Junior Year English, Rejoice!"

I’ve been on the fence about this one — it’s hard for a former drama major to resist the concept, but I’m trying not to add too much these days — but based on this review, I think I’ll pick it up.

I’m all over this.

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