Hard Lessons – Review Of Courtney Crumrin #4on August 7, 2012 at 7:30 am
Poor Courtney Crumrin. Just thirteen years old and already jaded, cynical, and so very, very alone. Sure, a lot of kids her age might argue that it’s not a burden with which they are unfamiliar, but they also most likely aren’t battling night creatures and learning magic at the knee of their ancient Uncle Aloysius. Wear all the ripped, black clothing and heavy eyeliner you’d like; you probably didn’t turn one of your classmates into a goblin. What are you bitching about?
Courtney Crumrin #4 wraps up the most recent arc spun by writer Ted Naifeh this past April. Courtney almost makes a human friend at school. Unfortunately, circumstances conspire to create supernatural obstacles for her yet again. Worse, the governing council that oversees the affairs of the coven of which she and her uncle are affiliated have finally had enough of Courtney’s disregard for coven law. Things are looking dire for our heroine.
Caution! Blood thirsty faerie wolves, mind wiping marshals, and spoilers abound after the jump!
After several series of graphic novels, Courtney Crumrin almost made a friend in this series. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get past her own paranoia and distrust, and yet another Hillsborough tween who made the mistake of crossing Courtney’s path finds herself on the losing end of a trip through Goblin Town. On the run from a pack of faerie wolves, Courtney and her classmate Holly Hart actually reach the point of making some mature decisions. Separately they both realize it’s time to take responsibility for the mess they are in and reach out to the adults for help. That is, if they can escape the wolves:
What Courtney’s own actions don’t botch with Holly, any hope of a lasting friendship is dashed by the interference of marshals from the coven’s council. Courtney can’t catch a break.
The beauty of Naifeh’s story, of which he is also the illustrator, is the balance between the kid friendly fantastic elements and some true, awful darkness. Yes, the adults do come to the rescue, but not without serious, severe cost. Courtney’s been up to too many questionable acts from which not even her powerful uncle can save her. Even in the art, which is informed to a certain degree by cartoony, manga-like features, Naifeh counters anything in the panels that could be perceived as “cute” with hard edged shapes and gothic, almost Victorian characterizations.
This is a comic series that has much for both young readers and adults to enjoy. Courtney is a protagonist sharp enough to give you a paper cut, but tempered by believable vulnerability. She’s no Emily The Strange, who makes you want to smack her for being entirely to emo and smart aleck for her own damn good. And, Courtney’s no Harry Potter knock-off either. If she manages to make it out of her childhood alive, she’ll probably give John Constantine a run for his money.