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Kill Shakespeare #8
writers: Conor McCreery and
Anthony Del Col
artist: Andy Belanger

For months now, Kill Shakespeare has been amusing, clever and a book to look forward to with each issue. Even less familiar characters from the Bard's plays come to an interesting life.

When I say less familiar, that applies whether you've read those plays or not. Within a few lines of dialogue or simply the body language given by artist Andy Belanger, who these characters are within the context of this story becomes crystal clear. (Maybe we should make an exception for Iago -- but then, that's also on purpose.) If you're into Shakespeare (and I am), it's been an enjoyable ride.

As this mini-series approaches its third act, however, writers Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col have upped it to a whole new level. We've become so sucked into this world and accepted what they've told us about what really happened that ... well, this issue has a cliffhanger that truly surprised me. It's not that they lied; it's just that I got well and truly snookered, and bless them for that. And on a lighter note, it's also cool how they subverted the most famous balcony scene in history.

While concocting a convoluted and exciting plot with the kind of epic sweep of Shakespeare's own later romances, the writers have remembered that it is the characters (and characterization) in the plays that have made them last. Juliet has the kind of fire that one could easily see her having developed if she truly had survived Shakespeare's tragedy. Though it doesn't take much to move Othello to brooding, he also has a magnetic sunny side that would make men want to follow him.

And Hamlet... ah, Hamlet. Tossed about by fate and an understandable identifiable conviction that he's just an ordinary young man who'd rather not be thrust into an extraordinary situation, uneasy lies the crown of the Shadow King. Yet we can't help but root for him, if only he could figure out what exactly it is he's supposed to do.

As the story has gone on, that's gotten both clearer and muddier. Juliet comments that they are all only as Will has made them, but later Othello doubts that Shakespeare has power over life and death. So is the Bard God? Or is he just a wizard, possibly even ignorant of his own power?

That's not even paying attention the magnificent villains, all jockeying against each other with smiles on their faces. Issue after issue, Lady Macbeth and Richard III keep shifting in dynamics, and even though he's remained out of their sights for a while, Hamlet seems pretty ripe for plucking. And these are villains that might actually pluck him just for the fun.

For those of us following the series all along, issue #8 makes a nice Christmas present to ourselves. And those with friends who haven't yet picked up on this series -- or even friends who aren't comics readers but dig Shakespeare (this is a large part of my friend demographic), you need to get them the trade paperback collecting #1-6. (Order today and it might even make it by Christmas. Or at least Twelfth Night.)

Derek McCaw

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