Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things

Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things by Ted Naifeh (writer/illustrator), Warren Wucinich (colorist), James Lucas Jones and Jill Beaton (editors), and Keith Wood (designer).

I first experienced Courtney Crumrin in a Free Comic Book Day offering from a few years ago. Based on that brief encounter, I resolved to read more, and I quickly added all of the Courtney Crumrin books to my Want List. Then, last Christmas, my wife bought The Night Things for me for Christmas. What a delight!

Courtney is a teenage girl who has been moved by her parents to live in her great, great uncle’s home so that the parents can “care” for him. Courtney quickly learns that her uncle is more than he appears, and embarks on a few adventures involving magic and magical, usually dangerous, creatures.  Given the art style, the comic is deceptively cute, but with an undercurrent of menace. Naifeh uses big, round eyes on most characters, especially the children, as well as angular features, which is an odd mix, but one that works in this magical world. Courtney is also drawn with no nose, which is an interesting choice given how different it is from how everyone else is portrayed, but I suppose it serves as the obvious metaphor. Normally this kind of heavy-handed narrative choice grates on me, and perhaps it did at first, but I grew very quickly to like it in part because Mr. Neifeh is skilled enough to portray all kinds of emotions on Courtney’s face, despite the lack of a nose. If the art sounds a bit too “cute” or manga-esque, know that it’s offset by some of the dark turns that happen, such as when one of the children is eaten by a werewolf. Think more Grimm and less Disney with this supernatural world.

I did not care for, however, the way the adults (excepting the uncle, though, we don’t really see him that much) were portrayed so one-dimensionally (and many of the children). Courtney’s parents come across as so self-centered and uncaring, but I suppose that’s to be indicative of how Courtney feels about them? Or maybe they truly are just awful people (the uncle says as much, too). The lack of a relationship developing over the course of the volume between Courtney and her great-uncle also grated on me, but perhaps I’m missing the point. Perhaps Naifeh took some narrative shortcuts precisely because we already know these things, or he didn’t have the room in the comic to fully develop those aspects. I usually hate that, but I forgive Naifeh because Courtney is so much fun. Yes, she’s grumpy, dour, and petulant at times, but she’s also affectionate, curious, and a bit fearless. That last trait was especially spotlighted in the third act of the book, which is literally about conquering a personal demon.

Now that I’ve read volume one, I can’t wait to read the other volumes in the series and share them with my kids. If you read this book, what did you think?

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