Things aren’t going so well for Courtney Crumrin. Thanks to her parents overloading their credit cards, they have accepted an offer to move to the wealthy suburb of Hillsborough and live rent free with their creepy old uncle, Aloysius. On top of dealing with rich, snobby classmates and a new home that is musty and decrepit, Courtney has to deal with the strange creatures that come in and crawl about the house, just out of sight: The Night Things.
Review: Courtney Crumrin Volume 1-2
By Ted Naifeh
A (All Ages)
Oni Press, Inc. April 2012, August 2012
ISBN: 978-1-934964-77-4, 978-1-934964-80-4
140/152 pgs., $14.99/$24.99
Right from the beginning, Courtney Crumrin sounded like a series I would enjoy. A girl with an attitude that doesn’t fit in with the “normal” kids her age but feels more comfortable with the world of magic and the night seemed like my kind of lead. After reading these first two volumes, I’m glad my intuition was right. Courtney Crumrin is a fun romp through a world of the night that starts out creepy and slowly takes on a darker air, but not in a gory or sinister way.
The Night Things starts out with Courtney moving into her uncle’s house and shows her difficulties in adjusting to her new home and school. But over a series of adventures where she interacts with goblins, changelings, and talking cats, and is nearly replaced by a Doppelganger, she shows her strength and intelligence. She does still need some help from Uncle Aloysius at times. The second volume, The Coven of Mystics, has a more connected story, as strange events lead to something dark going on among the local coven of witches, and Courtney’s curiosity and sense of justice won’t keep her from getting involved for long.
I loved these first two volumes. Courtney is a great protagonist. She isn’t pretty or overly girly, and she seems to lack a nose. But what she seems to lack in appearance, she makes up in wit and wiles. She can be snarky and sharp-tongued, but only to those she doesn’t respect, which seems to be most of the other characters except her Uncle Aloysius. But she isn’t so close-minded that she won’t heed the warnings from him and Miss Crisp, her new teacher, who also happens to be a witch. While resistant to authority as most pre-teens are, Courtney does learn the lessons both Aloysius and Miss Crisp want to teach her.
Her parents, on the other hand, are anything but helpful. They are more interested in moving up the social ladder. They want Courtney to get along with her school friends just so they can meet their parents. Neither her mother or father seems very bright or observant. One of the things Courtney and Aloysius bond over is their lack of respect for her parents. Aloysius, once Courtney gets over her fear of him, because more of a father figure to her. He doesn’t discourage her from learning about magic and the Night Things, but he does try to temper her rampant curiosity, that does get her into some tight spots. Her recognizes her skill and intelligence, and lets her make mistakes, but also makes sure she learns from them. Miss Crisp does the same, though with less of familiar approach. She gets the lesson through to Courtney that Aloysius can’t.
Some of the best characters, and best scenes, are with the Night Things. Butterworm, a goblin, acts as narrator as well as being the first Night Thing Courtney formally meets. He makes good comic relief when the story needs it. I really liked the talking cats Boo and Quick. They are very much cats, aloof and perplexing, always leaving one to wonder the true meaning behind their words. They both lead Courtney on some of her more harrowing adventures, but they always make sure she is safe in the end. The story of the cats having to choose a new leader was one of my favorites.
It’s not easy being a Night Thing, though. They are shown at first as preying on the human world, but through Skarrow’s story in volume 2, they are shown to just like humans. There is good and bad in their world, just as there is good and bad in ours. This is part of the lesson Courtney learns in The Coven of Mystics. She can’t shut out the human world, as much as she hates it, and things aren’t always what they seem. She also learns how important it is to understand the unknown. Skarrow was accused of a crime for simply being a Night Thing, because no one outside of Courtney and Aloysius really tried to understand him.
It’s Courtney’s growing understanding of the world that leads the story to take a darker turn. Courtney’s sense of justice leads her to an act that is a mixture of comeuppance and vigilantism. You can’t really blame her for doing what she does, but at the same time there are consequences that she has to face, and this is a good lesson that is shown, in different ways, all through these two volumes. Actions have consequences, some good, some bad. But as long as we learn from them, they were worth the experience.
Courtney Crumrin is a fun series, cover to cover. It takes its time in introducing the world before jumping headlong into it. It can be funny, serious, and poignant, but it is always entertaining. Readers of any age will enjoy this series, but tweens and teens will get the biggest kick out it.