Review: Toil & Trouble #4-5

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Toil & Trouble #4-5Toil & Trouble

Mairghread Scott (writer), Kelly & Nichole Matthews (illustration), Warren Montgomery (letters), and Kyla Vanderklugt (cover)
December 2, 2015 and January 6, 2016

Last month, issue #4 proceeded through the showdown between Riata and Smartea at breakneck speed. This month, issue #5 shows the devastating results.

Disclaimer: This review is based on an advanced review copy from Archaia and may contain spoilers.

It always takes me a while to process this comic after I read it. While you can read Toil & Trouble without being familiar with Macbeth or even Shakespeare, a knowledge of either will enrich the reading experience. Scott and the Matthews sisters have certainly done their research while also managing to add their own spin to this classic.

To put it frankly: there’s so much going on in terms of symbolism and literary allusion that I could write a thesis on this comic. (I won’t because there’s a reason I left academics, but the impulse still lurks.) Alas, having not read Macbeth (or any Shakespeare for that matter) in many years, I will just hit a few high points for me.

The pacing in this miniseries is top notch. The plot always remains focused, and the middle of this series has not lost the steam that often happens in series. Overall, Toil & Trouble is an exemplary study in pacing:

  • Issue 1: Set up the world and characters of the story and show the stakes to build reader interest for the next issue.
  • Issue 2: Solidify character relationships and  build tension towards the plot.
  • Issue 3: Third issues are some of the hardest—or at least seem to be as I so often see comics peter out at this point. Toil & Trouble saved the debut of the infamous and enigmatic Lady Macbeth for the third issue and the wait was worth it. Well-played.
  • Issue 4: Actions culminated at breakneck speed plotline and left the reader eager for the next issue.
  • Issue 5: Highlights the devastating results of the consequences of the actions from the previous issue.
  • Issue 6: The conclusion—what will happen?

I am most certainly looking forward to the conclusion, but the tight pacing does have one downfall for me: the underdevelopment of Cait, the oldest sister of the three wyrd sisters. In issue #4, she finally shows her teeth, but quickly turns back to the seemingly childish and naive sister (despite being the oldest). I admit, this reading has a lot to do with Cait’s curly blond hair, diminutive size, and association with earth, but overall, she feels like the least realized of the wyrd sisters, which means ultimately this story is about Riata and Smartea’s struggle, not the triad of witches.

As mentioned above, issue #5 is about the results of the consequences of the actions of the previous issues. But, issue #5 also has a twist. The issue of fate has been vague from the beginning of this series: are the wyrd sisters creators of fate or do they merely dole it out? This issue shows that while their actions do influence the mortals around them, “free will” still exists to an extent. My inner literature nerd got all tingly thinking about the lineage between Macbeth (play first debuted in approximately 1611) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (first version published in 1677) to this comic—and the continued question of “free will.”

As for the art, issue #5 is a stand out. Gone are the soft colors as Riata and Smartea battle—the colors in action are all intensity. In my review of issue #2, I mentioned showing the violence of war as Macbeth is certainly about the results of people in power and the causes of war—but scratch that critique, because that intensity and violence was saved for this issue, and the scenes are deeply effective.

Toil & Trouble Issue 5, written by Mairghread Scott and drawn by Kelley & Nichole Matthews, Archaia 2016

Issue #6 will drop February 3, 2016. I’m not sure if I am ready.

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik