Kill Shakespeare has something of the flavor of Lost in Austen, although much bloodier and more full of creepy ladies throwing the word “hecate” around. It employs the same disconcerting and effective tactic of taking stories that are so ingrained in our collective consciousness and making them run a different course. And thus we have a comic where Juliet did not kill herself after Romeo died, instead becoming a Shakespearean mockingjay out to stop the tyranny of Richard III (who apparently has not yet had his “My kingdom for a horse!” moment yet). In fact, he is ruling and with an iron fist. It appears that none of his Shakespeare-created enemies could stop him so he is now burning villages and searching for unsuspecting messiah figures.
This messiah is none other than Hamlet, who is here given a chance to stop being such a complete and utter ass. Hamlet still struggles with his demons, sometimes quite literally as above, but he has a purpose outside his mad quest to avenge his father. Don’t get me wrong, he still has daddy issues that plague him throughout the text. But his goal becomes larger: to find and kill the mysterious being that is William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is treated alternately as a great wizard with a magical quill that can shape destiny and change fate, and as a literal god. People don’t say “For God’s sake” in this. They say “For Will’s Sake.” He is their creator and the shaper of their destinies and their is a bit of a consciousness that they are just puppets in his stories. But now, the puppet strings have been severed because he is somehow no longer calling the shots. One can’t help but wonder what will happen when the author comes back and sees his characters have run amok.And so Lady Macbeth is consorting with Richard III and plotting with Iago, Juliet is teaming up with Othello and Falstaff and flirting with Hamlet. It is all so disconcerting. And so much fun. Minor characters weave in and out of the pages, with Demetrius and Lysander apparently friends again (though with no Hermia and Helena yet to be seen), and Shakespearean easter eggs abound. The Weird Sisters from Macbeth are doing the Lady’s bidding now, and Hamlet is wavering in his purpose to kill the great wizard Shakespeare. There is even a bonus comic about the magical manipulation involved in the murder of Julius Caesar. It is a Shakespearean fan’s dream, to be honest. It is just so much fun to see these characters outside of their set lines and actions. Never more so than when Juliet is being everything her character promised to be but never achieved in Romeo and Juliet. Juliet was always the wiser one in that relationship, always the one to call a halt and beg that they not get carried away. She takes ninety percent of the action and it is good to see her survive and thrive. Thank Will for that.Falstaff is a barrel of fun, as per usual. I can’t wait to see if they deepen his character a bit. I am just through the first volume and immediately picked up the next. Shakespearean fan or not, this is a comic that most everyone would enjoy. It is full of action, blood, political intrigue, romance, and kickass art. And I hear the Lady Viola is going to be putting in an appearance. So all you Shakespeare on the Commons folks, stay tuned. You can pick up the first three volumes here and at most comic stores, and the fourth should be coming out pretty soon. You can get the individual issues for the fourth volume already (the third one comes out the 27th). Pick it up and tell me what you think!