After this columns’s previous installment, I thought the format needed a break. My wife and I have a pretty wide-reaching library of comics (and comics-related works) in other media here at the house, and so I thought I’d take a minute to scoop up a big random pile of stuff here and do some old-fashioned reviewing, the way Mama used to do it. Let’s see what I could find:
Kill Shakespeare #1, McCreary/Del Col/Belanger, IDW Publishing
Tom Stoppard this isn’t.
Prince Hamlet of Denmark is recruited by Richard III and the three witches of Macbeth, who want him to kill an evil (?) sorceror in exchange for the resurrection of his late father. The sorceror’s name is not a surprise if you have read the book’s title, or indeed, any metafiction ever written.
This comic is off to a bad start just on the basis of its back cover. The high concept pitch may have gotten the book published, but putting “…a dark saga that is Fables meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a dash of Northlanders” in your cover copy is both arrogant and dangerous in the expectations it sets—and in this case does not meet. The first two books in that list offer intriguing twists on the original characters in classic stories, whereas this issue does not promise new insights so much as the sliding around of puzzle pieces.
More interesting is the claim to the third title: I haven’t read Brian Wood’s Northlanders, but one of the viking epic’s draws has been the portrayal of brutal action by a number of strong artists (though their rotation has apparently left some inconsistent story arcs). That seems to be where their claim is leading here, as the first issue is mostly set during the off-scene pirate attack in Hamlet. Unfortunately, the art is workmanlike at best, with no dynamism to the action scene and a limited range of facial expressions. Moreover, the pirate scene adds nothing to the story but “action,” and reads more like the two writers had always wanted to see the moment play out.
More petty is the way Rosencrantz and Guildenstern repeat each other’s names over and over during their few pages. Were they concerned we would not be able to tell them apart? Seems pointless, as they of course die before the issue is half over. A poor beginning to a series with an idea that could be used in interesting ways under a stronger hand.
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- kill shakespeare #1
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