Review: Kill Shakespeare – The Mask of Night #3

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Publisher: IDW
Writers: Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
Art: Andy Belanger
Colours: Shari Chankhamma
Letters: Chris Mowry

The Kill Shakespeare series is a curious one. You can compare it to Fables in that it features many characters from separate classic stories, and bundles them together to make something new. In doing so, it imagines a world where characters like Hamlet, Juliet, and Othello can go to war with Lady Macbeth and Richard III over obtaining the power of the mysterious Shakespeare himself. That’s a doozy of a concept. The level of world-building on display here is so rich that it can be difficult for newcomers to get a hold of what’s going on. This latest limited series, The Mask of Night, never holds the reader’s hand and guides them through this unusual landscape, and it can be daunting for anyone unfamiliar with the story, but luckily this swashbuckling adventure is entertaining in its own right.

The bedraggled survivors of the Prospero’s Island adventure, namely Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Shakespeare himself, are taken aboard The Boreas, captained by dashing pirate Cesario. Cesario is sympathetic to the Prodigal’s plight, but is overruled by his crew, which includes Cesario’s lover, Viola. Viola stages a mutiny, and Cesario loses control of his ship. The Prodigals are to be handed over to the cannibalistic baddie Lucius Andronicus, but Juliet tries to bargain her own life to spare her comrades. With Lucius fast approaching, difficult decisions must be made for the occupants of the Boreas.

While this storyline picks up right where the previous limited series, The Tide of Blood, left off, it seems clear that this is really Cesario and Viola’s story. The complex relationships between Juliet and Hamlet are certainly referred to and developed, but Cesario and Violet make a strong impression in their introduction, and their dissolving romance is the most interesting aspect of the book. Cesario wants to leave the pirating life behind, and settle down with Viola far away from danger and skullduggery, but Viola has pirating in her blood. Their relationship is so strong that characters from previous stories get sidelined.

Despite the complicated backstory, The Mask of Night is a pretty effective piece of sea-faring adventure and good old-fashioned buccaneer violence. The art by Andy Belanger fits the dirty world of pirating perfectly. His characters are rugged and fierce, but we always know what they’re really feeling. His compositions of pirate ships and knife battles are old-school exciting, if a little cartoony at times. The bold colours by Shari Chankhamma suits the mood of this bizarre world nicely.

You don’t have to be an expert in Shakespearean works to enjoy this, although it may help. There’s none of that iambic pentameter that Shakespeare was so fond of. It’s a strange world that Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, along with Belanger, have come up with, but it’s a compelling one so far.