Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly

Written and drawn by Ronald Wimberly, Prince of Cats is a singular book. A graphic novel retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it focuses on Tybalt, Juliet's hot-headed cousin, who's often referred to as the "Prince of Cats." While Wimberly updates the setting to a slightly-skewed version of today's America--young men wander the streets with swords, looking for fights--he retains the poetic speech and even the iambic pentameter of the original play.

Wimberly's work is heavily influenced by hip-hop and graffiti artists. The juxtaposition between the character's stately speech and their modern surroundings is jarring at first, but he draws interesting parallels between the bombast of hip-hop culture and the swagger of Shakespeare's violent young nobles. Discussing his language choices in an interview with Comics Alliance, Wimberly said, "One of the things I like about Shakespeare's work is how there's a narrative in his application of language as well as in the story of the characters. I chose to mix it up because the mix is what a large part of the process was about. I wanted the language to reflect what I was doing. I wanted Shakespeare's original work to come in like a sample."

Prince of Cats is a unique spin on a 400-year-old classic. This is certainly one of the most intriguing, captivating books I read this year.

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