Some comics just blow you away the moment you start reading them. Whether it’s a mind-blowing story or a collection of gorgeous artwork, there’s no feeling like reading a brilliant graphic novel. And Colleen Doran’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story, Chivalry, is a perfect example of this. While the original story is a sweet little tale about an elderly woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop, Doran’s adaptation raises things to a whole new level. With artwork that bounces back and forth between warm and comfy watercolors and pages that look like an intricately illustrated manuscript, every page of Chivalry is a work of art all in itself.
NOTE: I received a review copy of Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.
Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry
Adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran
An elderly British widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic visit from an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in hope for winning the cup.
Like most of Dark Horse Comics’ previous Neil Gaiman adaptations, Chivalry faithfully adapts the original story. One day, Mrs. Whittaker finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop and takes it home. And soon afterward, an Arthurian knight starts visiting her, hoping to acquire the Grail and finally complete his age-old quest. Chivalry isn’t a particularly complicated story. But its charm lies in that simplicity. At its heart, Chivalry is just a sweet, comedic romp in the best way possible. Mrs. Whittaker’s complete lack of interest in the Grail’s significance – or the knight’s increasingly outrageous trade offers – proves endlessly delightful. And the quiet, melancholic edge that runs through much of the story helps keep things grounded and endears Mrs. Whittaker even more. It’s an enjoyable short story in its original form. But it’s even more enjoyable here.
Colleen Doran’s artwork is what makes this adaptation truly come to life. Simply put, her artwork is a thing of beauty. Perfectly emphasizing the story’s combination of humor and heart, the artwork always works in service of the story. There’s never a moment where the art distracts from what’s going on or makes anything unclear. Even in the moments more firmly drenched in fantasy, where Doran lets her imagination run wild through intricate facsimiles of old, illustrated manuscripts. Every time one of those illustrated manuscript pages appears, you just want to stop reading and take in every single gorgeous detail. These facsimiles greatly elevate the original text, much like Doran’s art in Snow, Glass, Apple did. While the style and color palette greatly differs between the two works, anyone who’s read Snow, Glass, Apple already has a pretty good idea of what to expect here.
While those pages are probably what most people will remember, the rest of the book’s art is every bit as gorgeous. Much of the artwork is done in a watercolor style that, according to Doran’s notes at the end of the book, is modeled after the work of Beatrix Potter. And you can definitely tell. This artwork has a very calm, warm feeling to it. And similar to how the illustrated manuscript style emphasizes the story’s fantasy, these softer, soothing watercolors emphasize the story’s heart. The two styles work together to create a deeply enjoyable experience full of high fantasy and endless heart. Doran’s adaptation of Chivalry is the kind of book you wanna curl up with on a cold winter day. Warm, inviting, and absolutely gorgeous.
All in all, Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry is a must-read for Gaiman fans. It’s a sweet, enjoyable story made all the better by Doran’s truly breathtaking artwork. You might devour it quickly the first time, but you’ll keep returning to it over and over again to properly soak up the artwork. I hope Dark Horse decides to print this in some kind of oversized format someday, like DC’s Absolute Editions, because Doran’s artwork deserves to be seen in as large a format as possible. Honestly, Chivalry might be one of the prettiest graphic novels I’ve read in a long time. And I loved every single page of it.
5 out of 5 wands.
This review also ran on Geek Vibes Nation.