Crumrin & The Night Things
you all thought I was getting secret kickbacks from Oni Press,
along comes Courtney Crumrin. Ted Naifeh, Indie comic favorite,
both wrote and penciled this book and it's a shame it's such
a boring collection of stories about an unsympathetic heroine,
because I've heard good things about Naifeh. I wish this hadn't
been my introduction to his work.
premise is that Courtney and her vacuous parents, move into
the Victorian style mansion of Professor Aloysius Crumrin
(call him Uncle A). He's creepy and keeps to himself. The
town around them is creepy too, which Naifeh isn't exactly
subtle about it in his storytelling style: the first page
introduction to the tale is told by a goblin. Very suspenseful
Ted; I can barely choke back the terror.
Courtney feels out of place in her new school, which is full
of the stereotypes of high school fiction: rich bullies with
baseline IQs, cruel follower children, and quivering outcasts.
tries to survive her school, she realizes the town itself
is chock full of mystical creepy-crawlies when her new friend
from school is eaten by one of them. Courtney doesn't really
seem to care that much, but she still has the drive to make
the little goblin pay for his meal ("pay for his meal"
- bad pun or just bad writing? Discuss!)
into Uncle A's secret rooms and finds out the old coot is
something of a magician, though he's more likely to sacrifice
a dove then have it fly out of his sleeve. She steals a book
or two, does some magic, and that's pretty much the set-up
from here on out.
is broken up into four chapters, each of which is a short
story about Courtney messing with magic or getting caught
up with some type of demon or another, but they all blend
together after you read them because they aren't very remarkable.
about the characters is interesting. Everyone is pretty much
a one-dimensional cliché of something: Courtney is
the bitter sarcastic youth who is smarter than the people
who bully her, her parents are pseudo socialites who think
it's always about who you know and what they can do for you,
and the bullies are mean, tormenting people because they can.
is formula-driven writing with a mystical backdrop. But the
formula usually works on some level (that's why it became
a formula): SOCIAL OUTCAST FINDS OUT SHE HAS A SECRET THAT
SETS HER APART FROM THE HERD.
seen it before in comics like Zero
Girl (frighteningly better than this) and we've seen
it done expertly on television by Joss Whedon in Buffy
the Vampire Slayer. Maybe where Naifeh fails to capture
what makes these concepts work is in the characterization
of the lead: Courtney is a sarcastic and unsympathetic main
character. I really don't care what happens to her, or what
mess she gets herself into. It's like Naifeh created all these
see-through evil characters to play Courtney off of, and then
forgot to make Courtney likeable.
it says something that the female lead character is her own
person, and strong, and doesn't care what people think (if
I ever hear the insipid phrase "Girl Power" again,
I'll have a hemorrhage, so quiet down in-the-closet-Spice-Girl
fans), but if she isn't in some way admirable why read the
book? There's a reason My Friend Dahmer isn't a national
is terrible. Naifeh's style is sketchy at times and he can't
seem to draw the same face twice, outside of Courtney's. Facial
features, head shapes, and heights change from page to page
and the faces he does produce are, well, ugly.
also the fact that he draws Courtney so obviously different
from every other character in the book, to further point out
her outcast status (another checkmark in the subtlety column,
Ted). It's jarring and does accomplish what he was trying
to do, but could we have given her a nose? The girl looks
like a pancake with blonde hair.
this is a "Goth" comic that appeals to fans of Gloomcookie
and Jonny The Homicidal Maniac. Goth in general seems
like one of the funniest teen/rebellion phases I have ever
seen, so if this is the type of comic this style of dress
(it's not a culture, no matter how much black velvet you buy)
has created, keep it away. It's not even worth the $11.95
you'll pay for it (but still, look at the price tag; my boys
at Oni are friend to the poor comic buyer).
members of the Goth Culture: please note that we appreciate
the velvet. Really. And we listen to The Cure. A lot. We've
never actually met Rob Sparling; he just sends us stuff. So
if you are angry at him, please don't storm the Fanboy Planet
offices. He's not here. -- editor
Courtney Crumrin & The Night Things