"Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood" #1 written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col with art by Andy Belanger opens with Romeo hurled and harassed by monstrous dream-fueled facsimiles of Juliet Capulet, William Shakespeare and Hamlet. Naturally, being a dream placed prominently in a narrative, this vision holds messages and motivation for the remainder of the issue.
Through the balance of "The Tide of Blood" #1, McCreery and Del Col craft dialog and interactions around deep, yet fresh, characters. The writing duo are smart in their treatment of these iconic literary characters, steeping them in legend and lore while seasoning them with very human personalities and all-too-real demons. Romeo is heartbroken and seeking solace from the bottle while Hamlet can't help but feel bad for a man he might otherwise call friend as Juliet continues to enjoy the company of Hamlet over her one-time lover Romeo. The dynamics built between these characters is at least inspired to be Shakespearean in execution, while it celebrates its own entanglement.
No Shakespearean tale is complete without an external struggle to mirror the inner turmoil, thus Titus' army and his dogs of war are brought into the issue. Their appearance spurs Romeo to make some decisions that change the path the young Montague is set upon, stirring up the action and intrigue in this issue while giving the characters some grit to develop their personalities around. It also serves to expand the setting of the story and introduce Miranda, the daughter of Prospero.
Belanger's art has a cartoony tinge that animates the characters he draws while charging up the atmosphere of the story. Stodgy, carefully etched renderings might work well for this story, but Belanger energizes some of Shakespeare's most notable creations, making them youthful and fun to read about. Belanger's artistic flair gives the characters a hint of manga in their expressions and keeps them from melting into their backgrounds. Shari Chankhamma's colors are rich in pastels and softer tones, accented with hints of blush and chiseled shadow to add warmth and depth.
"Kill Shakespeare: The Tide of Blood" #1 is thematically linked to other comic books inspired by great literature like "Fables" and "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," but like those titles, this one extends beyond simple comparison. This is an exciting, imaginative expansion of what happens to Shakespeare's characters once the English Literature lecture ends and the doodles in the margins of countless students' notebooks come together to continue the adventure. This is an old world freshened up and made more inviting, at once familiar and comfortable while also ancient and intimidating. Thankfully, the characters that populate these pages are compelling.