When you aim to re-tell a famous story, especially one as entrenched in the literary culture as Macbeth, it’s easy to fall into the trap of conformity. In a sense you’re working uphill against the preformed ideas your audience has about the story and the characters. In Toil and Trouble, Mairghread Scott is fearless in her retelling. The book is a bold take on a hidden tale within the play. Scott manages to pay tribute not only the original source and invoke a number of influences from history and myth. The Toil and Trouble Hardcover is a chance for anyone who missed out on this series when it first premiered. The story follows Smertae, one of three witches tasked with overseeing the fate of Scotland, as she attempts to not only save the country, but a man who she sees as the rightful heir to the throne. Opposing her is her sister and fellow witch Riata, who has her own plans for the future. The third witch and oldest sister is Cait. She is stuck in the middle desperately trying to keep them together against the pressures that bubble within the family and threaten the land. Scott has done a masterful job with these characters, each of the witches have their own histories and motivations. Within their interactions, you can see how their unique perspective puts them at odds with each other.
As I said earlier, Scott has made a clear distinction between her story and the original play. The first and most prominent example of this comes in the form of Lady Macbeth. Instead of giving her the same motivation (or should I say lack of motivation) as in most tellings of the Macbeth play, Scott crafts a tragic backstory which fits well within her narrative. It makes the story that much more poignant and heartbreaking. Another small, but important distinction between most interpretations of the play, is that this narrative includes people of color throughout. An inclusion which I find refreshing. It is a brilliant way to challenge the audience’s perceptions of the time period while remaining true to the original source.
Kelly Matthews and Nichole Matthews do an amazing job here as well. Their art scheme is elegant, with bright vibrant colors and an attention to detail creates a subtle shift in tone throughout the book. Character designs and color choices create a connection between the art and the plot, with the art getting darker as the story progresses. The art feels almost like a medieval tapestry, a grand telling of an old fable. It’s great to see two relatively new mainstream artists perform so well in their debut.
This edition also offers a deep dive into the creative process. Essays, sketches, and a breakdown of the script are all included in the back. Archaia has done wonders with this and anyone who is interested in the nitty gritty of comic creation this book provides valuable insight.
In short, Toil and Trouble is a great comic. Scripted by a talented writer and brought to life by two up and coming artists. If you like comics, this is one of the good ones.
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Toil and Trouble Writer: Mairghread Scott Artist: Kelly Matthews and Nichole Matthews Publisher: BOOM! Studios/Archaia Price: $29.99 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital