by Conor McCreery (Author), Andy Belanger (Author), Anthony Del Col (Artist)
Kill Shakespeare is problematic and the troubles start early. The back cover copy for this volume lays out the series premise:
This dark take on the Bard pits his greatest heroes (Hamlet, Juliet, Othello Falstaff) against his most menacing villains (Richard III, Lady Macbeth, Iago) in an epic adventure to find and kill a reclusive wizard named William Shakespeare.
Richard III, Lady Macbeth and Iago are all foul villains, but not a one of the “heroes” listed fit that description. Hamlet, Juliet and Othello are all deeply flawed tragic characters and Falstaff is a comic foil. They are not evil, but that alone isn’t enough to make a character a hero. Character classification may seem like a small point upon which to fixate, but it’s really at the heart of the problem with Kill Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s plays and characters are classics because they are complex. Characters in these plays are a product of their cities, their families and their circumstances, just like real people. Shakespeare often paired his characters, using one character to serve as a foil for another, creating an even more intricate picture of both personalities. In Kill Shakespeare McCreery and Belanger pluck these characters from their delicate web of connections and drop them in a trite Good vs. Evil battle for the throne of a fictional England. Removed from their original environments, Shakespeare’s characters become
bland stereotypes: Hamlet is the reluctant hero, Othello is the strong man, Lady Macbeth the castrating bitch
One of the worst offenses in Kill Shakespeare is the fact that Juliet is now an armor-wearing, action heroine leading a rebel army. I fail to see what, if anything, would have given us any indication that the sheltered girl who died for love in Romeo and Juliet would be capable of leading an army. The only justification the reader receives for this massive change in Juliet’s character is when she says “I lost someone more precious to me than gold.” This platitude isn’t enough to explain her new personality. If the authors needed a character to fill the role of heroine, why didn’t they look to Rosalind from “As You Like It”? She displayed keen wit, intelligence and enough moxy to dress as a man and get herself exiled from her Uncle’s court. Or why not Kate from “Taming of the Shrew”? She was certainly a woman with the ferocity to inspire a few rebels.
For all my complaints, I have to admit Kill Shakespeare is not terrible. Character issues aside, it’s a decent action comic with some meta-story potential. I plan to read the second trade to see where McCreery and Belanger take this story.