Monday, February 17, 2014

Courtney Crumrin, Volume Five: The Witch Next Door


 I don't know how I let this series get past me for all these years. On the surface, Ted Naifeh's COURTNEY CRUMRIN comic sounds like the scores of other Harry Potter clones that litter the bookshelves and movie theaters: A young girl discovers that her Uncle is a powerful Warlock, and is initiated into the world of Magic by him, while still attempting to deal with school and all of the other pitfalls of everyday life. But Naifeh has crafted a darkly subversive twist on the typical young adult tale, and Courtney is no Harry Potter. She's sullen, withdrawn, starved for friendship, and spiteful and vindictive towards those that cross her. And in COURTNEY CRUMRIN, VOLUME FIVE: THE WITCH NEXT DOOR, she's starting to feel the net tightening around her, as her enemies begin to realize just what she has been using her magic for.

 After a brief flashback story about Courtney's Uncle Aloysius, the bulk of Volume Five finds Courtney, against her better judgment, befriending the new kid in the neighborhood, Holly, and eventually, in a roundabout way, teaching her magic. Courtney's suspicions prove to be correct, as Holly begins to abuse the access that she has been given to Courtney's world, using spells to make herself popular. As Courtney and Holly grow further apart, Holly suggests what turns out to be a disastrous trip into Goblin Town, a place that Courtney is no stranger to, having been lucky to escape after her last few visits.

 Naifeh's storytelling reminds me of Roald Dahl's, and I can't think of a better compliment than that. Courtney's story would certainly be appropriate all-ages reading, but there's a delicious core of darkness and menace to the narrative...For all of the speculation that J.K. Rowling might have turned Harry Potter evil by the end of his series, I doubt that anyone really believed that could be a possibility. I can  believe that could happen to Courtney, especially seeing where this volume leaves her.