Monday, May 17, 2010

Kill Shakespeare #2 - Review and Bonus Interview!

Kill Shakespeare #2

story: Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col

art: Andy Belanger

Kill Shakespeare #2: “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

In this exciting second issue of the saga that combines Fables with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hamlet begins his epic quest to find the reclusive wizard William Shakespeare. Joined in arms by the imposing Richard III and his lieutenant Iago, Hamlet is attacked and has his life threatened by multiple forces – a violent rebel group known as the Prodigals, a mysterious fool, and someone he least expects…

I am a big fan of Shakespeare. I was in Shakespeare Club in high school and had the enjoyment of participating in plays like Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, King Lear and Romeo & Juliet. I also volunteered to work with Shakespeare in the Park productions here in Florida. So obviously I am initially interested in a comic book that labels itself with the Shakespeare name (even if the title implies his death).

First of all I loved the launch of this book. The first issue was just unexpected. With the exception of my commentary on DC solicitations I don't usually read about a book before I read the book. I might have a general idea but in this case I had little to no idea what Kill Shakespeare was about. I absolutely love the idea of Shakespeare as a wizard that Richard wants dead. Hamlet is a good choice as a main hero - while supporting characters from Shakespeare's work are present almost everyone knows who characters like Hamlet, King Richard and Iago are. Using major characters helps to draw readers into the story. Still, I'm having more fun with the supporting cast as it's fun to see how many I know.

The second issue of Kill Shakespeare was even better than the first. The main reason I say this is because of Iago. Iago has got to be one of my all time favorite Shakespearean villains and Conor and Anthony certainty write him well. We also learn in this issue that there is a group of people who don't want anyone to find and kill Shakespeare the Wizard. The foundations of the world are slowly being established and the readers start to understand why Hamlet is important to King Richard's plotting. Honestly I wish this comic had been around while I was in high school - it would have been much easier to get some of the other students interested in the Bard's work. In placing all of Shakespeare's characters into one world and setting them lose on one another Conor and Anthony have created a virtual playground for people like me and have done in it such a way as to gain the interest of people less well versed in Shakespeare's work. Art Belanger's work is a perfect fit for the story being comprised of both easily identifiable features and expressions while favoring heavy and foreboding line work and flowing landscapes. His horses are fun too - they all seem to have personalities - Hamlet's horse was especially amusing the way Art drew him.

Conor and Anthony were kind enough to answer a few questions!

Gwen: Obviously you guys are taking Shakespearean characters out of their normal context. So far it seems that their normal "roles" have stayed the same. Hamlet's a hero, Richard is not very nice, etc. Will readers encounter some surprises along the way as to how characters react or are you guys playing more with the interactions of already established personalities?

Anthony: The great thing about Shakespeare’s characters and stories in his plays are that they are so multi-faceted – no one is truly a “villain” or a “hero”. They are just human. So we try to play with these constructs and the characters that are in our tale react to events in their own way.

Conor: Well we took some flak for playing with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so I think we have done a few different things with the characters. I think as the series progresses it will be easier to see how we have made these characters our own. However, Shakespeare was so great at hinting possible alternatives for his characters that even when we go “off book” I think one can usually make an argument that the way we have our characters act was at least possible.

Gwen: What inspired you guys to pull characters from Titus Andronicus? Does this mean you all are in the camp that is was actually written by Shakespeare? Are the two male henchmen with Tamora meant to be her sons?

Conor: Anthony suggested Tamora because she’s such a cool female character and we wanted a strong female character in our tale early as Lady M. and Juliet’s stories take some time to play out. Also, since Richard is trying to compete with people like Titus and Lear we thought that Tamora would ally herself with someone who wanted to be greater than Titus. As for who wrote what? I don’t really care so much – the stories are fantastic and that’s what I concern myself with…

Anthony: I would argue that Tamora is one of the most fascinating female characters that the Bard wrote so I’m glad that we’ve been able to incorporate her in such an interesting way. Titus is such a grand, epic story that we hope to be able to incorporate more than one character from it.

Gwen: In regards to pulling characters from Shakespeare's histories do you plan on fleshing out their roles using information from the people the characters were based on or do you guys prefer to stick with Shakespeare's characterizations?

Conor: Well we have our own world at play here. We’ve been surprised (but we understand) why people think Hamlet is in England right now, but that isn’t necessarily our intention. We’re going to go off of Shakespeare first, our world second, and “real-world history” third, if at all…

Anthony: The magnetic north on our story’s compass at all times is Shakespeare’s original plays and his interpretation of history. What the Bard did was take these historical figures and then build an entertaining tale around them; this is exactly what we’re doing with his characters in our own adventure.

Bottom line: Give this book a shot! It's a lot of fun in the Shakespearean style and I personally can't wait until the next issue!


Kill Shakespeare #2 comes out this Wednesday May 19th!

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