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The Prince of Cats Paperback – September 11, 2012

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Review

Praise for Ron Wimberly's SENTENCES:

"Transports hip-hop's braggadocio energy and irresistible rhythms onto the page. GRADE: A-"—WASHINGTON POST 

About the Author

Ronald Wimberly was the artist on Percy Carey's acclaimed memoir, SENTENCES, published in 2007 by Vertigo. As a young African American artist living in Brooklyn, he brings an authenticity to this project like no one else could. He's done extensive design and commercial work and has worked with Spike Lee on some of his film projects, most notably Miracle at St. Anna.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401220681
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401220686
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Wang on April 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Imagine if Shakespeare was born in the 90s, played Pokemon, watched badass anime and Afro Samurai, loved hip hop and was black, and you'd get Ron Wimberly's Prince of Cats. A retelling of Romeo & Juliet focusing largely on the perspective of the Capulets, particularly Tybalt, the eponymous Prince of Cats. In this alternate world, the fair citizens of this nit-grit punk-ass neon-tagged Verona play out the role of New York in the 80s, with a bloody Pokemon-like twist: the youths of the city are engaged in gang warfare that is determined by their clan loyalty (Capulet and Montague, primarily) and their position on the Duel-List, a seemingly daily street mag that tracks the bloody street warfare. Early in the story, we learn that Romeo has taken the top position after murdering Petruchio, a Capulet and the hero Tybalt's friend and mentor. Which is where the drama in this particular story begins.

The writing style is unique: imagine Shakespeare with a little jive. To be honest, Wimberly is at his best when leaning more on the Bard's words and style - the few times modern slang get thrown in it feels awfully contrived. That said, there's a sequence where Juliet and her girls describe fellatio in ways that would make the Bard applaud.

Wimberly has a unique style, and his designs and colors fairly pop off the page. For the most part, letterer Jared Fletcher does a passable job. However, there's clearly places for both to grow. Wimberly's action sequences get more confusing the longer they run, and are rarely as fluid and dynamic as they should be. He can draw the s*** out of a pre- and post- action scene pose, but the nitty gritty of a fight escapes him. For comparison, observe what Frank Quitely can do with a single widescreen panel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ree on October 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wimberly has handled an old subject with an amazingly, refreshing new twist that is sure to entertain the reader. His art work is outstanding, he's a master of the technique. Just what is needed to keep old form of the art and literature alive and active. The reader will be left wanting to see more of his work.
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Set in Brooklyn, Prince of Cats lauds itself as The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet's B-Side. Though it uses Shakespeare's classic work as the inspiration, Prince of Cats is its own entity, a graphic novel unlike any other, an adaptation, a reimagining, a twist on a story that was already a twist itself.

And though there have been many iterations of the source material, I've never experienced anything quite like Prince of Cats. Sure, the idea of the Montagues being white and the Capulets black isn't all that innovative, but setting the play in Brooklyn during the early 80s and mixing in a little kung-fu and hip hop with ample katana blades is a step in a daring, new direction.

Furthermore, Wimberly made a masterful move when he decided not to focus upon Romeo and Juliet, but instead gives the spotlight to two incredibly important but often underestimated characters - Tybalt and Rosalyn. I believe these are two of the driving forces of the original play, and I've never seen anyone give them their due like Wimberly does in Prince of Cats.

As you have probably guessed, I'm a former English major and devote a lot of time even today to studying Shakespeare. I can tell you that Wimberly weaves Shakespeare's original dialogue into his own seamlessly, and at times I had to double-check what was true to the play and what Wimberly did on his own. Also, as you know, there are quite a few times in the original work when we have no idea what Tybalt is up to. This book gives you insight into those moments, and his connection to Rosalyn is titillating.

Now, right now, a few of you are probably thinking this would be a great book to introduce into your classroom as supplemental material to your Shakespeare unit. There are a few warnings you should heed.
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I was keeping an eye on Prince of Cats since I saw it as an upcoming Vertigo release, mostly because I'm a fan of Ronald Wimberly's work, but had never read any of his printed material. To be honest I was more a fan of his artwork than his storytelling abilities.

Prince of Cats is now one of the best books I've read in 2012 and it's a must have for any designer who reads comics or any person who can appreciate well thought out layouts and masterful use of color and composition. It just stands out. Wimberly (aka d-pi) uses a 25 panel grid, but the whole storytelling aspect of the comic, from the flow of the panels to the pacing is just amazing. I never once felt I had to go back and try to read panels in a different order, I just read past pages at the speed I wanted simply because it was easy. It's amazing that he could get all this information across, but when you think about it, the 5x5 grid is an amazingly versatile tool for layouts.

On the other hand, the one thing you may find difficult to grasp (I had trouble with it at first) is figuring out the Shakespearian language the characters speak in. I did stop some times to figure out the meaning, since the last time I read Shakespeare was more than 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the clever dialogue and the inclusion of contemporary language into the mix give way to awesome quotes and quips. Also it doesn't hurt that the character design and use of expressions in this book is off the chain.

Wimberly has created a world that, when described in hindsight, sounds totally bizarre and implausible. It's kids that go to high school in New York, talk in prose and rhyme, and carry samurai katanas to duel against each other.
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