In the same vein as Fables, Shakespeare's characters are real but have a world of their own. They are gathered in an alternative world where they co-exist and grapple with one another for political dominance and social freedom.
Except for Hamlet. He has been brought through space and time by the Weird Sisters and Richard the Third to better the land and resurrect Hamlet's dead father. All he has to do is kill the mystical William Shakespeare and take his quill. King Richard will the be able to better the land and the people. But as Hamlet is being led through the forest, we see that the plot thickens and everyone has their own agenda. We also see that Richard III is not the benevolent monarch his pretends to be. Hamlet is soon led by Falstaff to the underground movement that wishes to protect Shakespeare and feel that he is a god. Led by beautiful Juliet, they hope to overthrow Richard III and have a merciful ruler. Hamlet no longer knows who he should trust, the man that says he can bring back his father or the young woman whose ideals are sweeping a nation?
If you've read our reviews of Fables you know we love the storyline that bring well known characters to life. As a long-time Shakespeare nerd, I really enjoyed this graphic novel. The characterizations were absolutely spot on, from the charisma and violence of Richard III to the youth and inner-conflict of Hamlet. Falstaff was amazing, as a jester with pearls of wisdom that you couldn't take seriously because everything else he said seemed so trite. There were times I scrambled a bit to remember story-lines so that I could figure out how characters would fit in - like Iago from Othello. The part that really intrigued me was the fact that while there weren't a lot of female characters, they were also the ones that stuck out. They were strong, independent, and powerful. Juliet, Lady Macbeth, and the Weird Sisters are fully aware of themselves and aren't afraid to reach out and take what they want. Pacing was fast and the plot was nuanced, the entire thing left you anticipating what was going to happen next. I have only one little niggle: I didn't love the artwork. It was fine. I just thought it could've been better. More refined, a better reflection of the story itself. It seemed a bit heavy-handed. This is more of a personal aesthetic than a real critique though.
Anyways, enough accolades. The first volume ends on quite a cliff-hanger and I'm excited to read the second volume I got from NetGalleys. I think you should be forewarned though, like Fables there are a TON of characters in Kill Shakespeare. It's sometimes hard to keep track. Also there is quite a lot of violence, not for the faint of heart. But if you love or even like Shakespeare - and would nerd out a bit at catching some quotes in the speech bubbles - read this. It's a fantastic re-imagining of Shakespeare's works.