Monday, February 13, 2017

Courtney Crumrin, Volume Four - Monstrous Holidays

The dark and lonely world of Courtney Crumrin seems to get darker and lonelier with volume four of this graphic novel series.  Writer and artist Ted Naifeh takes his little sorceress on a journey through Romania and old Germany as she travels with her Uncle Aloysius, who, rather than teaching her about her powers, seems intent on holding her back - particularly when it comes to helping those she knows to be in need!

The first story in Monstrous Holiday finds Courtney trying to help two lovers escape the bigotry and hatred of a superstitious townsfolk.  When she discovers the daughter of the man she and her uncle are staying with is not in love with her fiance, but rather, has true feelings for a gypsy (who also turns out to be a werewolf), Courtney makes it her mission to confront the townspeople about their prejudices and help the young woman realize that following her heart and being true to herself (and her lover) is more important than abiding by her father's wishes to marry someone of means and stature.  Of course, love can't always conquer all, as poor Courtney finds out the hard way, and she leaves the village behind her with a growing bitterness to the emotion that seems so elusive.

The second story, though, shows Courtney what true love - and sacrifice - is all about.  While touring a castle that may or may not have been once owned by Courtney's own ancestors, she meets a young man who seems to share the same loneliness that she does.  The two become fast friends, but gradually Courtney, as well as her uncle, begins to suspect there is more to Wolfgang than meets the eye.  When she finds he casts no reflection, she first thinks he's a ghost ... but quickly discovers he is so much more than that.  Her Uncle Aloysius, on the other hand, takes the necessary precautions, which Courtney throws to the wind to be with her newfound friend.  And then the marks on her neck appear.  And just when all hope seems lost for poor Courtney - - well, I'm not going to spoil it, but let's just say that true, sacrificial love saves the day!

I am truly amazed at how varied these stories of Courtney Crumrin are.  Naifeh is able to craft unique, stand-alone tales, while at the same time, weaving an ongoing tale of this little witch and her growth in not just her powers, but in her understanding of human nature (as well as the nature of the supernatural beings that dwell around us).  These are not just tales of horror and supernatural - they are tales of human nature and makes you wonder, who is truly darker - man or monster?

Each volume I read of Courtney Crumrin makes me all the more glad that I picked up this series.  It's just a shame that there are only three more volumes left...

RATING:  10 sacred wafers out of 10 for making the reader question their viewpoints on good and bad, right and wrong, saint and sinner.

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