Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom #1

By Ted Naifeh
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

When Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things debuted in 2002, I thought it was one of the best new series of the year. Ted Naifeh’s story of a young girl discovering the darker, mystical side of the world through her uncle while simultaneously trying to deal with real-world problems was fantastic, and the follow-up Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics was just as much fun. Now Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom is his third outing into Courtney’s world… and in many ways, it looks like it could be the best one yet.

Courtney Crumrin’s dealt with school bullies, baby-stealing goblins, and curses that make people vomit frogs instead of speak. Her Uncle Aloysius is a great source of information about the world of the Night Things, and she’s even starting to do well in school. What could possibly evoke fear in Courtney’s heart, then? Her parents are taking her on a weekend trip… back to her old neighborhood.

As much as I enjoyed the first two Courtney Crumrin mini-series, it’s this third one that has grabbed me the most thanks to Naifeh’s overlapping of the real and mystical worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I really love when Courtney is dealing with the magical world around her with both her smart head and her equally smart mouth. The story in the first issue of The Twilight Kingdom, though, really surprised me in how affecting Courtney’s return to her old home was. Courtney’s grown up now, and seeing her estranged from her old friend was well done because it’s both easy to see why Courtney and Malcolm have moved in different directions, as well as why it’s so hard for Courtney to see. Through Malcolm we get a glimpse of what might have happened if Courtney’s parents hadn’t moved in with Uncle Aloysius, and how this lucky break would put such a large rift between these two friends. The mystical element is very much a minor part of The Twilight Kingdom #1, but its presence fits perfectly, both explaining a lot of the events of the book as well as showing Courtney’s growth as a character in how she deals with it. With all of this going on, it might be surprising that my favorite part of the entire comic, though, is how Naifeh deals with Courtney’s father.

The Crumrin parents up until point have always been a bit of a joke, with their attempts at moving through society failing miserably, and their ineptness making them have to move in with a relative to save money. That’s probably why I was so surprised to see Naifeh focus somewhat on Mister Crumrin, who in a moment of weakness lets us really see how his mind works. It’s sad to see this side of him, with his ruined dreams spread out on the table in front of him and his real feelings shining through. In just a couple of pages, Naifeh turns the reader’s feelings on their head regarding Courtney’s father, and its shift is masterfully achieved.

Naifeh’s art in Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom is up to its usual standards. I love his character design of Courtney, with her little bat barrette and absent nose. She’s got some of the greatest expressions in the book, from disdain to fear and all points in-between. It’s fun to see how much Naifeh can tell with just a withering stare from Courtney instead of having to use any dialogue or narration to get his points across. The landscape around Courtney is just as expressive, from the disrepair of her old neighborhood to the interior design of the house that her friends really should not have broken into. Each location looks distinct and is deftly rendered, and Courtney’s return to her old stomping grounds is made visually different from what we’ve seen in her previous comics.

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom #1 is another outstanding success for Naifeh. There’s absolutely nothing for me to quibble about here, save my impatience for the next issue. If you’ve never read any of the Courtney Crumrin comics before, this is a great place to begin. Just understand that when you’re done, you’ll want to buy the first two collected volumes as well. Yep, it’s that much fun.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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