In Review: Toil and Trouble #2

A powerful, secret story is revealed with magical visuals that will hook you even if you're not fated to be King.

The cover: Macbeth and loyal Banquo go tearing forward on the battlefield, the Thane of Glamis unaware he’s carrying an enchanted sword. Just behind the men is the source of the blade’s power, witch Smertae. This is where last issue left off, so this is a good cover by Kyla Vanderklugt to remind readers where the previous installment ended. I like the artwork and the coloring, though I do wish it had been brighter (this blends in too easily with other books on the shelves), and having it framed with trim at the top and the bottom like a tapestry makes this image seem regal. Overall grade: B+

The story: Smertae has taken over Macbeth’s body so that she may slay his foes. This shocks witch Cait, who realizes what her sister has done. She tells oldest sister Riata what’s been done, but she’s not surprised at Smertae’s failure; she commands her familiar Graymalkin to “run rage through both forces.” The animal changes into a wolf and begins to kill. Riata’s decision confuses Cait who asks, “What are you planning, sister? If you kill all the Norwegians, Malcolm will have no challenge. If you kill all the Scots, Duncan’s army will never win.” She replies, “Don’t be stupid, Cait. Every mortal is a traitor at heart,” and she puts the whammy on one nearby mortal. Smertae ejects herself from Macbeth’s body at the arrival of Banquo on the battlefield. The man tells Macbeth that the Norwegians are on the coast, so the two ride off in that direction, while Smertae wonders how she can face Riata. Writer Mairghread Scott continues to weave an incredible secret story that focuses on the witches from the Bard’s Macbeth. Each of the women has a distinct personality, but it’s Smertae who’s the most relatable to the reader, for it was she that chose to save Macbeth’s life last issue and changed the course of history, or, should I say, prophesy. This all important prophesy is revealed in this issue and why she ended up an exile of her own land. One of the witches does something on Page 9 that enrages another, and the story takes on magical proportions. The conflict seethes out of two of the witches, with a backstory included to show that this feud has been simmering for some time. The final four pages has the trio interacting famously with two Shakespearean characters and it’s amazing to read. I’m so happy I decided to try this series out. I’m hooked for every chapter. Overall grade: A+

The art: Incredible seems too small a word for the visuals by Kelly & Nichole Matthews. The style is what one would expect of the best animated features, but not so cartoonish as to diminish this adult tale. The witches look amazing: Smertae in gray, covered in spikes that mirror her crab familiar; Cait, the youngest, a creature of the forest complete with branches out of her head; and ancient Riata, a lean warrior, whose right eyes bleeds. They do not just stand and cast spells, these witches do battle on the mortal plane and in the magical realm as spectacularly rendered on Pages 10 and 11. The scenes involving battle are gorgeous, but so are the scenes as the witches have a dialogue. Their emotions make the text solidify and I’m so mesmerized with what the both Matthews have done on this book, I would have felt more than satisfied if these characters had done nothing but talked the entire issue. My favorite visage of the witches is on Page 20 — that’s the stuff to instill nightmares in any mortal! Macbeth gets a little more face time in this issue, and that comes on 19 and 20, as he Banquo come upon the threesome. I’ve always pictured this iconic character as the manliest of men, but in this book he is the everyman hero, who looks on in fear at the witches. The colors are also done by this pair of artists and they are truly magnificent. Stand out panels include the top of Page 3, all of 7, 10, 11, 12, 20 and 21. I love the art on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font), yells, sounds, an ignored passage of dialogue, and the tease for next issue are conjured by Warren Montegomery. I really like that Montegomery has chosen to use a fancy first letter at the beginning of the narration texts; this gives the story an ancient and classical tone. I’m also liking that certain yells have a unique font that allows them to be colored, making them extra strong sounding. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A powerful, secret story is revealed with magical visuals that will hook you even if you’re not fated to be King. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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