Every fiction writer, at some point, writes a Shakespearean pastiche. It’s a phase, like graduate programs and not understanding why nobody cares about the short story you wrote that’s so full of meaning. Very few of them see the light of day and fewer of them are any good.
Kill Shakespeare: Tide Of Blood is the rare one that’s actually funny and clever in equal measure.
Kill Shakespeare is often referred to as “Fables but Shakespeare”, but that’s not really all that fair. The Shakespearean characters are part of a persistent world, not popping in and out of ours. Part of what makes the book work is Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, the writing team, know their Shakespeare. The dialogue isn’t written in iambic pentameter or anything, but it is true to Shakespeare’s quirks and turns of phrase, especially his predilection for puns and sexual innuendo. When Romeo tells a prostitute to “match thy mouth to thy talents”, well, it’s pretty hard not to crack up.
Also well-done are the characterizations. Romeo, for example, is the central protagonist of this book, and he’s just like the Romeo in the play. The book opens with him drinking himself into a stupor constantly because Juliet dumped him for another guy (Hamlet, amusingly enough) and he frankly doesn’t care about anything anymore. Romeo gets it together long enough to save Miranda from a pack of wild dogs, and then the team is off to Prospero’s island, where one assumes things will get worse.
If the book sounds dry, it’s not. It’s bloody, dramatic, and funny in equal measure, and you don’t need a background in theater to get all the jokes. It’s just that if you’re into Shakespeare, or have studied him at all, there are touches to the book you’ll genuinely enjoy.
Meanwhile, Andy Belanger’s art is admirably matched to the story. Belanger’s work here is reminiscent of woodcuts and illustrations from Shakespeare’s time, without being beholden to those forms:
It’s a subtly gorgeous and stylish book, and Belanger isn’t shy about making a dynamic action scene, either.
In short, it’s a comic that strikes that rare balance between the visceral and the literary… not unlike Shakespeare himself.