By Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, Andy Belanger & Shari Chankhamma
Kill Shakespeare: The Mask Of Night follows pirates, Cesario and Viola, as they travel the seas, encountering the most familiar faces from Shakespeare’s most famous works. These characters are integrated into this retelling of the classic tales set in a swashbuckling setting. Some of the classic characters, like Juliet, are shown in a way we’ve never seen them in before. The writing duo of Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col are very familiar with the retelling of these characters as they have worked together on numerous Kill Shakespeare miniseries before. While this issue pulls from a few of previous series, there will be a few gaps in the plot unless you’ve read earlier installments. However, this is a story based loosely on Shakespeare’s many worlds, so anyone who has taken high school English should be familiar with most of the names and settings mentioned here.
The art isn’t the prettiest or the cleanest that can be found in comics these days, but in a way it goes hand in hand with the writing and setting of the book. Belanger uses a massive amount of line work and detail in every panel. He gives much detail to clothing and surfaces, adding a rugged look that coincides with the time period the story takes place in. The action sequences were good and displayed a lot of blood and gore that proves that this is exactly what a Shakespeare play would look like as a comic. Chankhamma’s colors are simple and don’t take away from Belanger’s detailed work, although the palette of color itself could be more diverse as a lot of the scenes fail to draw the eye and capture the readers visually.
Cesario and Viola are the leading characters and much of the stories plot comes from their problems and differentiating goals, which creates good tension between them. The question arises as to whether they are strong enough characters to carry an entire series, and the current answer is “not quite”. This series relies heavily on the involvement of Shakespeare characters and how they’ve changed and what new ways they can be presented in, but from the work of this first issue, just having these characters as part of the book may not be enough to fully captivate a reader. The story is still interesting and is sure to pick up the pace as the plot progresses, but currently, this book just doesn’t have enough going for it. Story-wise, very little happened to advance the plot which may account for its lack of captivation, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope of the creators upping the ante next time around.
With a tie-in board game from IDW Games coming soon, looking to expand on this universe even further, and the grand scale of the Shakespeare lore, Kill Shakespeare: The Mask Of Night has decades of material to pull from and recreate. Solid art that fits the time period, and writing that stays true to original Shakespeare works, the creative team is in their element with this series, but a more captivating story as well as more complex leading characters will transform this book from something good to something great.