Mr. Vertigo Reviews 108: The Closet Vol. 1; Chivalry

The Closet Vol. 1
James Tynion IV, writer; Gavin Fullerton, art; Chris O’Halloran, colors; Tom Napolitano, letters
Image Comics, 2022

This is the story of a troubled marriage and a cross-country move to what is supposed to be a fresh start. Thom has decided to take a road trip to the new house with his son Jamie so they can bond. Jamie had been terrified of a monster in his closet in their New York apartment (the titular closet). His father has trouble dealing with those fears and is convinced that the problem will disappear when they leave the apartment behind.

The trip does not show Thom in a good light, which is not surprising, since he seems to be kind of a fuckup. He has been cheating on his wife; when needed for help with the move, he ran out, bought the wrong tape, and got drunk at a bar; and he is completely unable to give Jamie the emotional support he needs. Because the monster is real, and it is following Jamie across the country. Or maybe it is a manifestation of the tense family situation, still very much in evidence after their arrival in Portland. There are some questions at the end of this opening arc.  The art team excels at portraying the emotional tone of the story, employing an impressionistic style with generally simple backgrounds.

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Chivalry
Neil Gaiman, story and words; Colleen Doran, adaptation, art, and illuminated manuscript lettering
Dark Horse Books, 2022

Dark Horse has been publishing beautiful interpretations of Neil Gaiman short stories for many years now, adapted by a number of artists. This is the third by Colleen Doran, an artist who has been associated with Gaiman since The Sandman. The short story was first collected in Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions (1998). Doran has long been an Arthuriana enthusiast, and expressed interest in adapting it: but a Hollywood producer held the rights for over 25 years. This is only the first stumbling block Doran relates in her Notes in the book. When she began work, she struggled with the best way to interpret the story visually, even spending months trying to create a genuine illuminated manuscript (which involved parchment and the difficulties of raised gold leaf technique).

The story is a charming tale about an elderly Englishwoman who purchases the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop. After bringing it home and proudly displaying it on her mantle, she is visited multiple times by Sir Galaad, a Knight of the Round Table. He wants to retrieve the Grail, and offers Mrs. Whitaker a succession of items in trade: first he offers gold; then the legendary sword Balmung; and finally, the Philosopher’s Stone, a Phoenix egg, and one of the apples of Hesperides. She turns down the apple (with its promise of youth and eternal life), but accepts the other two in trade. Sir Galaad goes away happy, and she resumes her normal life (choosing to leave a magic lamp behind on her next visit to the junk shop).

The storytelling is a blend of real life and fantasy: it could even be called magic reality. Mrs. Whitaker is presented as an average widow and housewife, yet she recognizes the Grail immediately, and accepts Sir Galaad (complete with a suit of armor) and his horse as normal occurrences. Her memories and love for her husband are like a guiding star. Doran’s art captures all of this, along with passages about Galaad that are rendered in a more formal Medieval style meant to evoke illuminated manuscripts of the era. 

 

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