Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger
Alternate cover by Kagan McLeod
Published by IDW
52 Pick-Up Week 15:
We here at PoP! believe in the power of comics as a means of promoting literacy. It’s to that end that you’ll see more from us in the near future regarding Reading with Pictures, an ambitious literacy program that’s attempting to put comic books in the hands of kids. So maybe it wasn’t this philosophy that got me to pick up Kill Shakespeare #1 for 52 Pick-Up this week. Maybe I was just intrigued by the title. The simple fact is, however, that once I’d finished, I wanted more. Not just more of Kill Shakespeare, though. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m going to start by addressing the art, because I’m of two minds here. This is not my preferred style. I got into comics in the era of Jim Lee and J. Scott Campbell – overly roided out dudes alongside overly sexualized women, sure, but their styles were very dynamic. That’s one thing that Andy Belanger’s art certainly isn’t, and at first, I was rather put off by it. As I read on, however, it quickly became clear to me that the art here was perfectly appropriate for the story at hand. I’d probably never want to see Belanger’s take on the capes and tights set – then again, I’m fairly certain there were both capes AND tights in this book – but here his artwork seems right at home; nautral. By the end of the book, I’d actually come to appreciate it a great deal. Like Andrea Sorrentino’s art on last week’s entry, Belanger evokes exactly the right mood for the story his art is helping to tell.
As for that story, it’s certainly an odd one. We pick up… roughly around the beginning of Hamlet’s fifth act, but from there, the story branches from that of Shakespeare’s teling and begins to take a life of its own. The details, though certain to be key in how the story unfolds, are irrelevant to this review short of the broadstrokes which govern the book’s tone. McCreery and Del Col are playing fast and loose with the Bard’s works, rewriting and reworking the source material as they see fit. It is not irreverence that they show, but rather a calculated deviation from the original works which I again feel certain will all be key to the story as it will eventually unfold. Of course, that’s mere speculation, and only time will tell.
For now, what I can say, is that this was a well crafted first issue, with a fairly powerful hook to pull the reader forward through the story. More than that, however, this book makes me eager to read the source materials as I never had that much exposure to Shakespeare growing up. Even though I have a general understanding of the events that take place in some of his works, I can’t help but imagine there are details that are being woven into this tale that I’d do well to familiarize myself with.
And there it is – the perfect comic book (even if it’s not exactly a perfect comic book). The first issue of Kill Shakespeare not only makes me want to keep reading, it makes me want to read other things, as well. Put a book like this in the hands of a few inquisitve children, and stodgy old classics suddenly have a renewed relevance.
As the first issue of a new series, Kill Shakespeare #1 would be well deserving of 5 out of 5 mishmashed tales; however, this issue’s greatest value comes in it’s potential to spark an interest in the classics, and achieving that lifty goal is reason enough to crank the dial all the way up to 11 out of 5 averted deaths.
This is the sort of comic we need more of – a book that dares to push the boundaries of the medium and of the reader alike, almost daring us to broaden our horizons and truly engage ourselves in what we read; bold, imaginitive storytelling paying homage to the great works which made it possible. This is exactly why I encourage you to challenge yourselves to your own game of 52 Pick-Up. I know comic books aren’t cheap, but I promise you, stepping outside your comfort zone as I’m doing can absolutely be worth the cover price.