Review: Harlequin Valentine

Neil Gaiman tends to make the already fantastic into something even More. In Harlequin Valentine, he does it again, with a simple twist on a classic story. Spoilers ahead.

Harlequin Valentine has roots in the Italian Commedia dell’ arte tradition; a tradition still played upon and taught in theatre classes today. The Harlequin is a character from the Commedia with iterations backwards and forwards in literature: a version of the trickster archetype that is largely motivated by his unrequited love.

In Gaiman and Bolton’s version, however, the object of his affection takes over the role when she bests him by eating his heart, left pinned to her front door on a chilly Valentine’s day. Missy is nonplussed when she finds the heart on the door, proceeding to unpin it, store it in a plastic bag, and clean up the blood. Harlequin describes her actions with all the creepy over-observing of a stalker, obsessed with Missy as an object rather than an individual.

As Missy goes about her day, trying to solve the mystery of the heart, Harlequin follows, assigning the other men in her life to other Commedia stereotypes disdainfully. Gaiman’s tale and Bolton’s art work together to keep the story tight, Harlequin’s perspective hyper-focused on Missy as the day unfolds. Both Gaiman and Bolton bring an eerie sensibility to an otherwise light-hearted trope, without applying too heavy of a hand. The result is spell-binding.

My recommendation is this one is a buy! Now’s your chance to get a reissue of a now 16 year old book in a shiny new shell. If you already own it, however, no need to add another copy to the collection. All content included is from the original 2001 publication, including Gaiman’s clever essays on both Commedia, and Bolton’s artistic methods.

Story: Neil Gaiman Art: John Bolton
Story: 8.5 Art: 9 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy, unless you’ve already got a copy!

Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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