It takes balls to take on the Bard, to recast a minor role into a major player, to transport fair Verona to Brooklyn, to take a classic story of star-crossed lovers and flip it on the B-side in order to tell a tale of heroism and honor, turning "the courageous captain of compliments " into a tragic figure of epic standing. Ron Wimberly has those balls and they are on deft display in Prince of Cats from Vertigo.
When Silva and I reviewed this book last month, we both spent a great deal of time lauding all of its many merits (from its sexiness to its humor, from its inventiveness to its lessons in fellatio) and we could find very little, if anything, wrong with the entire package.
Because everything works in this book. In it, Wimberly has full control of his craft: from the drawing to the colors to the writing to the layout – it is complete in every aspect. It dares to tell the story of Tybalt fromRomeo and Juliet, transported to Brooklyn in the mid-80's, now made hip-hop and ninja, pierced and cocksure. By taking on this dare, Wimberly transforms a tragedy that has been watered down so, through endless tellings and interpretations and cultural touchstone thickness, as to be bereft of its woe, bordering on comedy. He transforms it and creates a new tragic hero, one that is believable, one that is true, one that is flawed by hubris and empathy at the same time – a candle that cannot burn long on this stage.
And we all know what happens to Tybalt. In this book, though, Wimberly makes this moment more meaningful. Prince of Cats asks you who is truly "Fortune's Fool" in this tale, while reminding you what is in a name.
Prince of Cats is the 2012 graphic novel you hand skeptics of the medium. Push it into their hands hard and, with wild eyes and frothy lips, tell them "This is for you!"