Fair is foul, and foul is fair in post-apocalyptic Tokyo

John Millen
John Millen |

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Manga Shakespeare Macbeth

By Robert Deas and Richard Appignanesi

Published by SelfMadeHero

ISBN 978 0 9552856 6 0

Taking a story out of its original format to tell it in a new way and different medium can be disastrous. How many novels have you loved, only to be bitterly let down by the film? Sometimes switching mediums can work only if the original isn't tampered with too much.

William Shakespeare wrote plays for an audience of 16th century Londoners, but the plots and characters were so strong that his works have been successfully adapted into movies, television serials, operas, musicals and novels.

SelfMadeHero's version of Macbeth is part of Manga Shakespeare, a series of graphic novel adaptations of the bard's best known works. Keeping much of the original dialogue but simplifying the storyline and employing top-line manga artists to flesh out the action, these 21st century revamps of Shakespeare stay true to what the playwright intended while appealing to new readers.

Macbeth and manga fit together pieces of a quality jigsaw. The essence of good manga storytelling - ghosts, witches, sword-wielding heroes, non-stop action and brutal revenge - were already there in the original play and needed very few adjustments for the new medium.

"Is this a Samurai sword which I see before me?" This fast-paced adaptation, skilfully written by Richard Appignanesi with Robert Deas' bold and powerful illustrations, relocates the setting from ancient Scotland to a futuristic, post-nuclear Japan full of devastated skyscrapers and hideous mutants.

Manga Shakespeare Macbeth is an ambitious, sword-slashing warlord with his eye on gaining personal power from the apocalyptic chaos. Right behind him, pushing him forward with a deadly ambition of her own, is Lady Macbeth, a ruthless geisha in thigh-high boots and a miniskirt. Together they form a murderous duo.

An eerie trio of snake-like witches predict great things for Macbeth, but first he must murder the present king to clear his path towards the ultimate power he wants to hold. His deadly wife spurs him on, and supporters of the king are felled in a killing spree of both friends and rivals. The Macbeths won't let anything or anyone thwart their ambition.

The main characters of this post-apocalypse telling of Macbeth are introduced in full-colour pages accompanied by quotations from the original play, and as the deadly plot unfolds, the illustrations become black and white to heighten the drama of the story.

Manga Shakespeare Macbeth is an ingenious take on the Bard.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]