Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover, and I had my eye on Oni’s Courtney Crumrin from the second I saw the Free Comic Book Day cover. It just worked for me, and my inner teen goth was happy. When I listen to her, things tend to go pretty well, so I settled in and read the book.
My inner goth girl is rarely wrong. Courtney Crumrin was SO GOOD. So when the good folks at Oni offered me the chance to read and review the latest Courtney Crumrin trade, Volume 5: The Witch Next Door, I jumped. I am thrilled to say that the FCBD book was just a tease, and that the Courtney Crumrin series is fan-tas-tic.
There’s a 13 year-old girl named Courtney Crumrin. Who lives with her old, somewhat eccentric Uncle Aloysius, in a ramshackle home. But there’s more when you go deeper – Courtney is a witch, her uncle also a magic user/wizard/warlock. There are fantastic beasts in the forest and a goblin world that will make anyone who enjoys Hellboy smile with memories of the market.
The Witch Next Door starts off with a story that places new readers, like myself, with a little history on Aloysius and his friend, Mr. Woodrue. It’s a sad story that kind of sets the stage for stories going forward, now that we know the deal between the relationship between these two gentlemen. And then, we get into the meat of the stories in this issue.
Holly Hart, another 13 year-old girl, the daughter of a novelist, moves in next door to the Crumrin household and befriends Courtney, who seems like every bit the outcast that new girl Holly is. As the two become friends, Holly learns about who Courtney really is, and what she can do – and picks up some tricks on the way. When Courtney sees how Holly misuses the gift of magic, she has to do something – but is Courtney an innocent, herself?
There’s no black or white in these stores, but plenty of gray. No one is perfectly good or perfectly bad, and the characters manage to remain likable throughout the stories. There’s fantasy, adventure, magic, and, most importantly, solid character development.
Holly and Courtney are both little goth girls, very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Tweens and teens with a love of the morbidly fascinating and magic will embrace these books just like they do Emily and the Strangers. I love that these types of stories are becoming popular for tween and teen girls, especially, because there were no stories like this when I was that age, and I really could have used them. It’s cool to be different, to stand out, and yes, to wear black and be goth, but with spirit and – humor, love and friendship.
You don’t need to read up on Volumes 1-4 of Courtney Crumrin before you pick up Volume 5. It’s completely accessible to new readers. I do suggest you read the second chapter before the first – the second chapter is the FCBD issue, and seems to place the reader much more easily than the first chapter. But really, you’ll pick it up as you go along. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll go order the first four volumes, because you’re a completist.
Ted Naifeh, who writes and does the art for Courtney, is quickly becoming one of my favorite writer/artists – just wait until you guys get a look at Princess Ugg, coming out soon. In the meantime, Courtney Crumin, Volume 5: The Witch Next Door is on shelves. When you pick up your books this week, check it out. Five out of five stars!
COURTNEY CRUMRIN: THE WITCH NEXT DOOR (Volume 5)
Writer: Ted Naifeh
Artist: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Oni Press
On-Sale: April 30, 2014
Diamond ID: DEC13 1234