As this next volume of Kill Shakespeare opens Titus’s army are at the borders, but the new threat of Prospero is revelaed, and there may be no hope for anyone. But the real action of this issue moves away from Juliet, Othello, and Hamlet, the main characters of the last collection, and focuses upon Romeo. Having fallen into discouragement and disgrace, most pointedly having lost Juliet to Hamlet, Romeo is a drunk finding sexual, capricious comfort with a tavern maid. Part of the fun of this series of stories is that they are extensions, interpretations of these characters that have fascinated actors, actresses, academics, and audiences for centuries. If you are having trouble with wrapping your head around how these seemingly untouchable, static characters you were forced to co-habitate with in public school or college could possibly be interpreted in this way, think about all the DC and Marvel heroes that have endured for decades. Do we not change characters to fit the times, or a story, or an idea? And who is to say that certain characters are off limits? Some quick comics food for thought—acclaimed writers such as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman have used Shakespeare characters to tell a story and did so in unique styles that fit the tone of what they were trying to do. Just saying…
This first issue is about inducing a narrative comprising one of the most classic themes of myth and stories—the redemption of the fallen hero. Romeo feels not only abandoned by those he loves but feels that Shakespeare (who is acknowledged by the characters as God) has abandoned him in his time of need. I like this existential crisis, as it is a bit of a role reversal with Hamlet, arguably one of the greatest existential crisis characters ever written. But Hamlet is content in this world—he has the respect of people and he has the love of a woman—so Romeo really is alone. The road to redemption for Romeo comes in the form of Miranda, seeking help in confronting her father, Prospero, who is keen on bringing about the end of the world from his island (or at least that is what she says).
The style of artist Andy Belanger is good, and his pace and layouts serve the story well. I think the style is mainly influenced by Jeff Smith’s approach in Bone to the landscape in color (provided by colorist Shari Chankhamma) and layout while also maintaining a command to play with shadow when necessary. Kudos also to the art team on making spirits menacing (they are actually cruel manifestations classically), in daylight scenes, especially on page ten with Shakespeare’s face rendered creepy, hovering in midair filling a quarter of the page, evoking for me some of Neil Adams’ ability to distort faces in close up in that way that makes you uncomfortable. I just get really freaked out at that idea of faces of menace filling dream spaces…(shudder).
Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood is off to an interesting start—to me, more compelling than the previous volume opening. This is shaping up to be a story about the hero finding his or her self, that strength lies within. The heroes, when written well as they are in this issue, will face the challenge while being reminded that they are destined to be heroes, even if they lose the way sometimes.