Good Neighbors Vol. 1: Kin

Written by Holly Black
Art by Ted Naifeh
144 pages, black and white
Published by Scholastic

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ted Naifeh’s, especially when he’s working on books like Courtney Crumrin, or Polly and the Pirates; his ability to write and draw his young female characters as strong, intelligent protagonists has always been a real attraction. So, the idea of Naifeh teaming up with young adult novelist Holly Black seemed like a perfect match, with Black not afraid to tell dark, creepy stories that Naifeh himself is so good at.

Rue Silver’s mother has vanished, and her father doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Hanging out with her fellow teenage friends, Rue’s got some problems on her own; she’s started to see strange creatures and figures lurking among corners, or sometimes even in broad daylight. And if anything, these visions are getting stronger, not weaker. When one of her father’s students at university vanishes, though, Rue’s no longer able to stand on the sidelines. What she’ll discover about these two disappearances, though, will certainly change Rue’s life forever.

Black seems to be learning how to write comics as the book progresses, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The book opens with no back story, no explanation for what’s going on with any of our characters. It’s actually a tiny bit confusing at first, but Black seems to ease into having limited narration opportunities (unlike a novel) with relative ease, the script flowing more smoothly with each page. Then again, I think that’s also true to some extent with the plot. At first, it seems like a very standard, by-the-numbers “girl discovers she is really part faerie” story. Maybe it’s because Black makes Rue so oblivious to what is obvious to the reader, that she’s able to then slip in a lot of twists into the story; you’re so busy looking at one piece of the puzzle that you miss all of the other scattered around and waiting to be discovered. By the time this volume of The Good Neighbors came to a conclusion, I was fully impressed and convinced that Black can write comics, and am also quite ready for the next volume to show up.

Naifeh’s art in The Good Neighbors is, I think, the best in his career to date. Just looking at some of the faerie creatures alone is worth the price of admission, with elegant, multi-sectioned wings, or belts made of numerous sea-shells all strung together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much detail in Naifeh’s art before, and it’s a really beautiful end result. A lot of the punch comes from his delicate gray washes on each page, providing an extra layer of depth to each panel. He’s able to use it for all sorts of things, from shadows on the side of Rue’s worried face as she tilts her head to one side, to extra ripples of water as it laps around a fallen body. There’s such a strong richness in each drawing, from individual leaves on vines to elaborately drawn 1890s Irish houses, that you can tell that Naifeh has gone above and beyond his normal abilities here.

The Good Neighbors: Kin is a strong opening to a three-volume series; while it may begin quietly, once things really start moving it never stops for even an instant. With enough plot twists and surprises, and a visually-perfect cliffhanger, you’ll want to read more. Me, I’m just impressed that someone came up with the idea of Black and Naifeh collaborating, and disappointed that no one had thought of it up until now. Normally I want to see books that Naifeh’s written and drawn, but this is a series where I’m quite happy to have Black in the writer’s chair. Good stuff.

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2 comments to Good Neighbors Vol. 1: Kin

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  • Rhia

    Having read this from my local library, I have to agree completely. This book is my personal Holy Grail, seeing my favorite author (I loved Tithe & Valiant) and my favorite artist (I have Gloomcookie, and have read Courtney) come together on this book has been an incredible experience. From the point of view of someone who has loved both of their works before this volume, I can see where Holly wants to put in pages and pages of narration, almost see the words that describe Rue’s birch bark friend across the page as the Fey is introduced. Beautifully done through and through, I’m waiting patiently for the next volume, and definately to find this in a book store so I can start my collection!