Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentines Day Double Feature Revue: Harlequin Valentine

Annnnnnd Now, For Your Viewing Pleasure!
A Valentines' Day Double Feature!

For Our First Act, We Present to You:

Harlequin Valentine!!!

"It's Perfect, Magnificent, Marvelous and Magical.
It's Valentine's Day, isn't it?
Who could be cold upon Valentine's Day?"
-Neil Gamian, Harlequin Valentine

What happens when you give your heart to another? What happens when you give your heart away?
In the surreal tale of Harlequin Valentine, that question is answered,  rather literally in fact.

A surreal, dreamy dance through city streets on a cold February holiday, Harlequin Valentine is a tale for the dreamers, the wistful ones, and the people who see through tawdry decorations to savor the message of St. Valentine in all its strange and lovely moods.
In these pages you'll meet Harlequin, who has pinned his heart to the door of his Columbine Valentine of the day.  He is truly the spirit of infatuation; by turns syrupy sweet, capricious, cruel, careless and kind as the mood takes him. He is the lusty fascination that sweeps you off your feet, and the melancholy mood that engulfs you when you sit at home alone on Valentines' Day. He's infatuation; its joys and its pains, all in one package.
But this time he's set his heart at the feet of a woman named Missy, and she may just be more than he expected.

Written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by John Bolton, the book can be found through Amazon or here at TFAW comics.

The Rating 

Take a bow, Harlequin. With one or two faults, your performance was most excellent.

The Raves

Told in lyrical prose and with surreal, half-photographic art that captures odd poses and altered states of consciousness,  the short story Harlequin Valentine is an updated retelling of the commedia dell'arte tale of Harlequin and Columbine, which the authors discuss in their 'notes' in the back of the book. For once, the authors' notes are as fascinating as the actual story, and  their deep, cynical and oddly moving riff on the original tale really hit a sweet spot with me. Between the art and the writing, I was transported into a waking dream where love is a dancing, cavorting animal leaving chaos in his wake.
In this world, dead men speak on their autopsy tables, girls can be transformed by being wrapped in ribbon, and the right woman can change the world. I won't tell you the ending, for that would break the spell and spoil the magic, but I will tell you that it's a must read. 
This is not a long book. At 32 pages, it's shorter than some single issue comics I've read. But packed into it is a heady and somewhat disturbing exploration of this saint's day. Gaiman and Bolton remind us that love isn't always kind. In fact, they murmur in your ear, quite often it's cruel, caring nothing or who it harms. Despite his light-hearted cavorting and syrup-sweet pining for the 'Columbine' he's chosen in honor of the day, you realize very quickly that Harlequin, spirit of Valentines', is as self-centered as a gyroscope. He isn't in love with MISSY, his professed beloved; rather he's in love with the idea of BEING IN LOVE. The way in which this story explores the ideas we hold on falling in love and pokes holes in them are fascinating. The story at once discomforted me and pulled me in deeper page by page by its weird and wonderful juxtaposition of real and false in both the writing and the art.

The Razzes

So, I'm a young woman in my twenties....and I had to hold this book up and squint in order to read the text. Admittedly the font is a lovely thing, but someone along the line should have mentioned that it should be lovely and LEGIBLE. Most of the time the art is gorgeous, but at certain points its mixed media approach is more jarring than interesting, and distracts from the story. But hey, what performer doesn't have a missed step somewhere in his routine?

The Revue

The perfect read when you need an antidote to overdone 'romance genre' stories.

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