At any given moment, there are numerous comic book writers whom I follow with wild enthusiasm. But today, an unusual scenario has presented itself: just one writer is grabbing all of my attention. Of course it’s Ryan North, the guy behind Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, last year’s To Be Or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure, and this year’s Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure. For those who are unfamiliar, this is a game and a book in ONE. And yes, is as good as it sounds. And yes, it even features additional characters who can unlock at certain times.
So, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Romeo and/or Juliet, and pleasantly surprised to see that Noelle Stevenson did the cover art; it hooked me before I even turned a page. The list of artists who contributed to this book is extensive, including Kate Leth, Becky Cloonan, Chip Zudarsky, Erica Henderson, John Allison, Jeph Jacques, Matt Cummings, and more. You can pretty much guarantee that your favorite cartoonist had a hand in this mixing pot, which makes it a personalized experience. At least, it did for me.
So, the book is built on the premise that Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read; they were meant to be played. It entertains some big ‘what if?’ questions, like “what if Romeo never met Juliet?” and “what if Juliet never met Romeo, and instead married some guy she met in a bar who was totally wrong for her?” and “what if Romeo met a tragic fate before he laid eyes on Juliet” and “what if Juliet became a pirate?” and so many more big questions. Alright, first I chose to be Romeo, because it’s always fun to assume a character whose gender is opposite to your own. Especially when that character is a teen who boasts a profoundly unhealthy obsession with love, and who talks a mile a minute to Benvolio about his passions and pitfalls. Playing as Romeo, I got experience glorious happy endings, such as putting a stop to the age-old feud between the Capulets and the Montagues and experiencing love-at-first-sight with the unassuming Juliet; and tragic endings, such as an unfortunate death while talking and eating (both too fast). And there are so many more possible endings for Romeo that I plan to discover over the coming hours, days, weeks, months.
When I shifted gears and played as the sweet-natured, uber-muscly (no joke) Juliet, who is frequently at the mercy of her parents and their old-timey views on marriage, things got interesting in another way. I got to be a rebellious teenager who runs away from home, drinks beer while talking to weird dudes, and plays seriously hard to get. When I wanted a break from that, I unleashed my eager-to-please character trait, and pursued the “Yes, mom,” track. Every choice I made brought surprising results, and every choice was characterized by North’s sense of humor and self-awareness.
If you’re on the prowl for a new book to play, look no further than Romeo and/or Juliet (it officially comes out June 7th, but you can pre-order it on Amazon). Even if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare or Romeo and Juliet in particular, this book/game is so entertaining and downright hilarious that I guarantee you will still have an amazing time. In fact, you’ll probably end up buying multiple copies to give to your friends and family.
IMAGE: Romeo And/Or Juliet