It’s been a while since we’ve had a new “Courtney Crumrin” comic; up until now, Ted Naifeh’s creation has starred in several miniseries and one-shots, each spotlighting the sharp-witted title character who has one foot in the mundane world of evil school students, the other in the equally dangerous magic world. Now, thanks to Oni Press, “Courtney Crumrin” returns as a new, full-color, ongoing series. And if you’ve never read Naifeh’s comics before, this is a great way to give it a whirl.
Naifeh is wise enough to know that some readers of “Courtney Crumrin” #1 have never read the previous miniseries, so he opens the series by introducing Holly, a newcomer to town. Holly learns about Courtney even as we do; figuring out that Courtney’s not only an outcast among the other school students, but also dangerous. And as Holly and Courtney’s interactions and relationship grows, Naifeh slowly starts to show us that this is going to be anything but a normal friendship. Which is, of course, “Courtney Crumrin” in a nutshell.
Long-time readers will appreciate the nods to earlier stories; Courtney’s warning Holly against popularity spells, or the missing person posters of characters that came to unhappy ends before. If you haven’t read those earlier tales, though, there’s enough provided here that you can pick up the general gist of what happened before without needing to know all of the finer details. More important is watching Holly’s story build even as Courtney recognizes danger signs. We’ve seen Courtney face off against the mean girls of her school, so it’s much more interesting to see the relationship between Courtney and Holly twist and turn even as both of them try to steer it down different paths. It helps that Naifeh never loses sight of Courtney not just being sharp-tongued, but also genuinely smart. Watching her piece the information presented to her is entertaining, and it’s a reminder of one of the many reasons that she’s a great protagonist.
Naifeh’s art always looks nice, but his teaming up with colorist Warren Wucinich is a pleasant surprise. Naifeh’s sharp lines are still in great effect, but there’s a layer of softness thanks to the colors that results in an intriguing final result. I like getting to see the greens of Holly’s jacket, or how the bat barrette shows up against Courtney’s blond hair. The purples and blues of Goblin Town are also a great touch; it instantly establishes the shift of the world from mundane to magical in a way that pure black and white art can’t quite accomplish. But as great as the green glow on those last two pages in particular looks, there’s no denying that the big star is still Naifeh’s art. Those scenes pack such a punch because of not only a strong script, but because of how they’re drawn. The expressions on Courtney’s and Holly’s faces, the cages in the market, everything comes across perfectly. And just when you think it’s all wrapped up — Naifeh leaves us hanging for the next installment.
If you’ve never read Naifeh’s previous “Courtney Crumrin” comics, please do yourself a favor and check this new series out. With full-color collections of the originals just around the bend, it’ll be easy to pick up the earlier stories if you like what you see. I say that not because you’ll need to do so, but rather because you’ll want to. “Courtney Crumrin” is a winner from start to finish.