Posted by: Graeme McMillan on April 17, 2010
KILL SHAKESPEARE #1 is, in a way, a book that makes me feel that I’m not smart enough.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. What I mean is, the reaction to the book makes me feel that I’m not smart enough. I look at things like Tim Callahan’s scathing review over at CBR or Frank Miller’s Shakespeare scholar girlfriend’s rant at Bleeding Cool and think, clearly there’s something wrong with me that I actually kind of enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that it’s anything more than an entertaining populist detournment of Shakespeare’s characters that takes them into something closer to high concept action movie territory (The McGuffin, that Hamlet can only regain his destiny and free will by stealing the quill that belongs to a wizard whose name is William Shakespeare dances across the line of genius and stupid so often in my head that I really don’t know which side it really belongs on, to be honest), but that doesn’t mean it’s not entirely enjoyable on that level. I disliked reading Shakespeare enough in high school that I can only assume that complaints about mischaracterization are entirely valid, but it also feels to me that that’s missing the point, a little – that this is very clearly an INO use of those characters, taking the familiar names and settings and using them for entirely different, meta-textual and referential means.
(What I’m interested to see if whether there’s something to this reappropriation, or whether it’s just a gimmick. As much as I’m defending it above, I have an anxious desire that there’s something more to it than we get with the first issue – If it really turns into a case where the Shakespearean connection is merely a way to get readers’ attention and that the book doesn’t actually offer any true commentary on the original Shakespearean plays by the end of the series, I’ll be disappointed.)
Interestingly enough (to me, at least) is that I feel like the anti-Tim Callahan; while he hated the writing and liked the art, I’m pretty much the opposite. It’s not that Andy Belanger’s art is bad, but it’s wrong for this book, for me – It’s too clean, and too polite. I found myself wishing for the brushwork of a Stefano Gaudiano or the energy of a Davide Gianfelice, something to add texture and life to the story and make the period setting feel more authentic and dangerous. With a different artist, Kill Shakespeare could’ve been great; as it is, I still think it’s Good, even if that means I’m not as smart as I’d want to be.