It's been six years since the first "Courtney Crumrin Tales" comic, Ted Naifeh's prequel comics to his "Courtney Crumrin" series, as we learn more about Aloysius Crumrin, Courtney's great-uncle sorcerer. I'll admit that I found myself wondering if I'd have the slightest idea what was going on, due to the large gap in time. The bad news is that I still don't remember the events of "Courtney Crumrin Tales: Portrait of the Warlock as a Young Man." The good news is that Naifeh made sure it didn't matter.
Naifeh opens the comic with a short vignette, with Aloysius, his fiancee Alice Crisp, and her uncle Grosvenor going up against a socialite with a particularly nasty way of looking forever young. It's a great eight page story, because it gives us the setup for the comic, and fills us in on the information from the previous "Courtney Crumrin Tales" comic so that we aren't lost. It's a tiny bit predictable, but that's not really the point; we aren't there to be surprised that Lady Emma is a sorcerer, but rather to enjoy watching Aloysius, Alice, and Grosvenor defeat her.
From there, Naifeh gets into the meat of the story; we learn more about Aloysius's "hide in plain sight" strategy of being a member of the Anti-Sorcerer Society, while Alice struggles with her love for Aloysius even though he's secretly a sorcerer. It's got a mix of emotional and physical drama, and Naifeh keeps the story moving at a brisk pace even while we get both a Crumrin family history lesson as well as the evolution of the Anti-Sorcerer Society. Naifeh keeps a few surprises up his sleeve for the reader, too; there were a couple of plot turns that had me straighten up in my chair when I got to them, but they're not just for shock value. Re-reading the comic, it's just as entertaining even knowing the twists that were coming up.
Naifeh's art is excellent as always, with its dark ink lines and glamorous clothing. Lady Emma's spider-web dress is the ultimate black widow outfit, both perfect for the ball as well as a sly wink at the reader of what's to come. Aloysius himself is the right mix of dashing and dangerous; Naifeh draws him in a handsome manner, but from a dash into an abattoir to watching a villain's plans backfire horribly, there's a nasty little glint in his eyes that reminds you that a Crumrin is always dangerous.
"Courtney Crumrin Tales: The League of Ordinary Gentlemen" is a nice introduction to the "Courtney Crumrin" comics in general; it gives you a bit of history, helps show the kind of dark fantasy stories that Naifeh tells, and mixes humor and drama in a way that draws you in and wanting to see more. Hopefully it won't be quite so long a wait until the next "Courtney Crumrin" comic, "Tales" or otherwise. In the meantime, though, this is a good reminder why Naifeh's developed such a strong following. This is great stuff, start to finish.