courtney crumrin and the night things


in full disclosure: I had the pleasure of this read thanks to NetGalleyOni Press, and an advanced reader copy. What follows is my free, fair, & honest review.

Courtney Crumrin (Volume 1) : The Night Things, Special Edition

Art & Story by Ted Naifeh

The Courtney Crumrin stories were originally released in digest form since 2002. Coming in March 2012 from Oni Press, “Fan-favorite and critical darling Courtney Crumrin is back in a series of newly remastered, full color hardcover editions.”

Young Courtney Crumrin and parents have recently moved into old Professor Aloysius Crumrin’s house. Having exhausted the means of supporting their desired lifestyle, Courtney’s hideously shallow parents are thrilled by any opportunity to hobnob with the very wealthy neighbors. As for Courtney, the only redeeming value the move has is her mysterious Great-Uncle and the strange creatures she catches lurking about. The Night Things are the stories a darkly accommodating neighborhood forest goblin Butterworm would tell of Courtney coming to stay, her discovery of the magical world around her, and her possible place in it. And although The Night Things are only a fraction of the telling, it proves a splendid appetizer.

Courtney Crumrin is darling in the way Wednesday Addams is darling. She takes the darker side of the world in stride. And she smirks at just the right moment. “If you wanted to become Courtney Crumrin, you should have done a little more homework. I’m rude, bad-tempered, and basically, I don’t like people” (107). This, of course, doesn’t mean she is invulnerable to loneliness. In fact, it is part of her loneliness, her otherness, that fuels her interest in her falsely infirm Uncle and the contents of his study.

Butterworm’s presence as narrator book ends The Night Things, as does Courtney’s and Aloysius’ meeting. The first is the initial introduction where Aloysius welcomes them into his home with a warning to stay out of his private chambers, which is followed by this amusing frame: a 3/4 image of creepy old Uncle Aloysius with the text and query: He shot her a withering gaze with his terrible eyes. “Would you care for some hot cocoa?” (6). Yeah, Crumrin House is hardly cozy at first. But not without effort does it become a home for the mostly ignored Courtney whom finally finds care and understanding with her Uncle by the final story of this collection. The development of their relationship is subtle, subtle enough not to alert the reader that this may be one of the more important threads lacing The Night Things together until that ending.

The Night Things has a lovely sense of humor. Courtney Crumrin elicits a lingering smile, and even her awful parents garner a laugh now and then, however derisive in affect. The stories/illustrations have a darkling charm that outpaces that of Thomas Siddel’s Gunnerkrigg Court; which came to mind during the reading. Courtney isn’t invincible, nor does her heroine status feel contrived. She isn’t distractingly pretty. She’s impish, and she has no nose.

The darkling aspects of faerie lore are not cute, no matter how darling Miss Crumrin may seem. I found certain disappearances surprising and Courtney’s participation in one of them in particular deliciously intriguing. Magic has its darker aspect and Naifeh explores them. For instance, the desire to be attractive is not a new story and Courtney falls prey to such a vein quest. She wouldn’t mind some glamour, or, at the very least, someone to share a lunch table with at school. The lengths to which the story plays out it is delightfully horrid. It is so nicely done, I felt robbed by most every earlier version of the story and their outcomes. Aloysius: “You’re lucky. You saw only the tip of the iceberg. It could have been much worse.” Courtney: “It was getting pretty bad for a while.” The understatements exchanged between Courtney and her Uncle at the end of this episode had me laughing out loud. Naifeh is good with those cathartic moments. And he needs to be, for all the grim notions introduced and explored.

Naifeh draws great creatures, but he shows any one or thing can be a monster via composition (ie. angles, shadows) and story (text, sequence). As the stories progress, Naifeh manipulates expectation, not turning them on their head per se, but sliding the black or white further into the grey.

The majority of the Reader’s Copy I was granted access to was in black and white. However, the color portion looked good, as expected. A nice palette, one that if I had to draw a reference, I think Kazu Kibuishi’s books. The Night Things style is more traditional comic illustration with a few contemporary notes. Don’t expect overt nods to manga or the cartoon-y. For young audiences, the effect is refreshing while yet maintaining popular aesthetics, i.e. it is completely accessible.

There were no visual signals between collected volumes in my copy ala title panel or page. I can’t say if there will be, but the shift in time and intent is abrupt enough to mark a change. I can say I preference a marked change, even with the evident beginnings and endings to each part. I think the continual development of the setting, situation (world), characters, and themes create a strong enough woven material, not to mention the book ends, that the visual breaks wouldn’t hurt. Regardless, I’m really excited to see how the final special editions of Courtney Crumrin’s adventures turn out.

It will be nice to revisit The Night Things in the Spring as it will allow a perfect break before another visit in the Fall. Courtney Crumrin will be a delightful autumnal read as scary things in one form or another seem to be waiting for Courtney to cross their path. But they are not the only Night Things creeping about. And while Courtney may be young, she is daring, studious, and fierce. She’s a marvelous heroine. She’s just darling.

—–so noted———

Courtney Crumrin and The Night Things has been recommended for all ages, but I would start at a morbid 8 year old, or otherwise 10&up.

{ the first image is of the Trade cover and is not necessarily the final cover of the special edition. quotes attached to page numbers are subject if not very likely to change. other images are from Naifeh’s site gallery (in b/w) which reads like an excerpt. expect nice color work with the new editions.}

here is a nice review at “paipicks” by James Ashelford. do check it out.

There is rumor of a film adaptation in the works; some say it is to be headed by The Orphanage (2007) director (and friend of Guillermo del Toro) Juan Antonio Bayona. a few links in this regard: here and here (nada on IMDb–yet).

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kailana says:

    I really enjoyed this book. Unfortunately the library doesn’t have the rest, so I haven’t read on…

  2. L says:

    my library doesn’t even have the first book. I’m going to put in a request as the special editions come out. we’ll see which ones (if any) the will be able to get. sigh

  3. Comparing her to Wednesday Addams seals the deal. This looks fun. And, in contrast with yesterday’s review, I love this illustrative style.

  4. Tanya M says:

    Hello! I was looking for a review to help me decide whether or not to read this, when I found your post. I’m definitely going to read it now, and I linked back to your entry in my latest post. I hope you don’t mind.

    1. L says:

      I don’t mind, and thanks! I’m glad you found my review helpful, I hope you enjoy(ed) the read!

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