Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Andy Belanger, Anthony Del Col, Chris Mowry, Conor McCreery, IDW, Kill Shakespeare, Shari Chankhamma, The Tide of Blood
Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood
Written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art by Andy Belanger
Colors by Shari Chankhamma
Lettering by Chris Mowry
Published by IDW
Here’s what you need to know; Shakespeare’s characters are real. All of them. And all exist in the same universe or, at the very least, in pocket universes so close together that travel between them is possible and, often, easy.
Here’s what else you need to know; they’re at war. The armies of Richard III and Lady Macbeth have only just been defeated by a rebellion led by Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Romeo, aided by Shakespeare himself, part-God, part-wizard. Now, as the peace is, just, kept between the victors and Titus Andronicus’ army, news comes of something dreadful happening on Prospero’s Island…
Right now some of you are probably breaking out in hives over the fact that this is a book about Shakespearean characters. Let me go further and say that whilst the text isn’t full on iambic pentameter, it definitely has the sort of rhythm that Shakespeare’s work did, and is littered with quotes and near-quotes. This isn’t the sort of book to soft soap any of its world building, and the first couple of pages, especially if you’re coming to it new as I am, are a tough road.
Then it flies.
The last time I felt like this reading a comic was the very first issue of Fables. McCreery and Del Col have such a handle on this world, such effortless control of the various characters and casts they can draw from that it feels like a book that’s run for years and years. You get a clear idea of the characters and their relationships inside the first quarter of the book, a good idea of their world inside the first two thirds and a very good idea of what’s coming by the end of the first issue. In that time, not only have the main character arcs for Romeo , Hamlet and Juliet been established but you’ve got a rock solid idea of why they’re acting like they’re acting and what the past, and future, holds for them as well as a great action sequence and the introduction of Miranda, Prospero’s daughter. Traditionally viewed as a Shakespeare analog, Prospero is one of the most powerful characters in drama and the possibility he, and Miranda, may not be allies is chilling. Regardless, it’s a testament to McCreery and Del Col that not only can they set up a first issue this well but have a character who isn’t even in the issue cast such a long shadow. This is smart, complex stuff which is presented in a manner that someone who’s never read or seen Shakespeare plays before will pick up. It’s extraordinary.
Tony Belanger’s art matches it every step of the way too. At times looking like Charlie Adlard’s best work, the best way I can describe it is if Terry Gilliam drew comics instead of made films. Everything is earthy and lived in but the people still have energy and life and colour. And speaking of colour, Shari Chankhamma’s work here is amazing, especially in the final pages where a change in locale and palette combine seamlessly. Likewise, Chris Mowry’s lettering differentiates between speech patterns extremely well, meaning you never get lost wondering who, or what, is talking.
Kill Shakespeare: Tide of Blood is brilliant. It’s fiercely clever, completely accessible, crammed full of references that people who know the plays will smile at and people who don’t won’t be irritated by and tells a fascinating story with near effortless style and energy. In a very strong week of comics, I’ve not read anything better. Go, buy it, read it. You won’t regret it.
(Kill Shakespeare volume 1: A Sea of Troubles and Volume 2: The Blast of War are also available)
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