Long Live the Bard

I wasn’t like most other kids in high school.  I liked Shakespeare.  Others dreaded that unit of English class almost as much as they hated poetry, but I enjoyed the language and the stories.  Perhaps it had something to do with living near a Shakespearean Festival and the field trips every year, which often coincided with the play we were studying.  Live theatre with sword-fighting… purr-fect.

Kill Shakespeare: A Sea of Troubles. Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger. IDW Publishing, 2010.

With this educational background and a healthy collection of Shakespearean movies in my VHS collection, I was keen to read Kill Shakespeare.  This is a book that promises what so many in high school desired.  The Bard’s own heroes and villains are trying to find him and many want to kill him, thus freeing all from further suffering caused by iambic pentameter.

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The movie’s the thing…

Kill Shakespeare has much in common with Shakespearean tragedies.  The scenes are dark, a lot of people die, and there are ghosts and witches.  The main characters are drawn from the tragedies: Hamlet, Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago, and Juliet.  The comedies are mostly hidden, although Falstaff does his best to provide some comedic relief.  If you are paying attention, you can find a pub named The Midsummer Night’s Dram and the Merry Wives of Windsor is another establishment in which poor Hamlet suffers.

If the previous paragraph meant nothing to you, then Kill Shakespeare: A Sea of Troubles is not a comic I’d recommend.  [spoilers] This is the first volume.  Shakespeare isn’t killed.  In fact, Shakespeare doesn’t even enter from stage left to say a few lines.  If you pick up this book hoping to see a high school dream fulfilled, you will have to read further.  I don’t plan to read the other volumes, but this has nothing to do with wanting Shakespeare to survive.

A Sea of Troubles churns with troubled moments of awkwardness and confusion.  Characters flip from thee/thou to you in the same speech bubble with the odd hath thrown in for good measure.  Poor Polonius can’t decide if he is speaking to thou or ye.  And why must a character say “then be true to thine own self” when the actual quotation is so well known?  If the language doesn’t bother you, then some of the awkward transitions in the graphic panels might.  I found myself confused by a few fight scenes and wondering who was hitting whom.  There is often treachery in Shakespeare and perhaps that is what I was seeing.

You can read this book without knowing who the characters are and understand it, but you will miss the background sensation of that’s an interesting team-up.  You will also miss the distraction of wondering which play some characters came from and needing to look them up on Wikipedia.  If you didn’t like Shakespeare in high school, you will be able to read this book without pausing to refresh your memory by watching film adaptations of several plays.  [I can’t believe I still have a functioning VCR.]  If you love Shakespeare and remember more than I do, you might want to check out this book.

Kill Shakespeare.  Bravo for the idea and effort.  I’m not going to call for an encore.

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