Thursday, June 29, 2017

Courtney Crumrin, Volume Five - The Witch Next Door

Ted Naifeh takes his incorrigible little witch, Courtney Crumrin, on a brand new journey in this fifth volume of the series.  And in The Witch Next Door, Courtney does, a little growing up, we learn a little bit more about the history of Courtney's uncle and the town of Hillsborough, we take another trip down in the dangerous realm of Goblin Town, and Courtney finally comes face to face with the consequences of some of her actions to date.

This volume opens with a flashback tale, giving readers a glimpse into the history of Hillsborough, the past of Uncle Aloysius, and we learn the real reason why this town seems to be the center of the magical world and its creatures. It's a great little breather from all of the supernatural dangers that Courtney has faced over the past four volumes - it's nice to have a rather simple tale of lost love, betrayals, and good ol' fashioned soap opera scheming and intrigue.

Of course, with chapter two, it's back to our regularly scheduled programming, as a new little girl moves in next door.  Young Holly Hart is not at all put-off by Courtney's demeanor - in fact, she feels she's an outcast the same as Courtney, and before you know it, Courtney has a friend! Someone she can pass the time with, she can share magical secrets with, and someone who she soon realizes may not be as altruistic as she first thought! First, it's a simple spell to make others at school like her - but then it's a trip to Goblin Town, which quickly turns into a very dangerous rescue mission.

But is Holly Hart really all that bad?

Naifeh gives us a bit of a twist here, as he uses chapter three to give readers a different perspective of the events that led up to Holly and Courtney being captured at the end of chapter two. While chapter two gives us the standard Courtney Crumrin point of view, in chapter three, readers are treated to the same events, but from Holly Hart's point of view - and suddenly everything you thought about Holly may not be accurate! It's a great story-telling technique, and it works flawlessly here to keep the story moving and to make Holly a bit more of a sympathetic character.

The concluding chapters find Courtney facing down some pretty dangerous characters in Goblin Town, and when Holly is sent off pretty much the way the writers did with Donna Noble in series four of BBC's Doctor Who, Courtney suddenly must face the consequences of her actions as a witch. Naifeh leaves this volume with a huge cliffhanger, and it's pretty much a guarantee that readers will be rushing to get to Volume Six to find out what happens next!

The art remains above par, with the heavy use of grey, purple, and blacks to keep the gothic, gloomy theme working throughout the story.  While the character depictions took me a bit to get used to in the beginning (as they are stylistic and not drawn realistically, like with artists such as George Perez, Jerry Ordway, or John Byrne), by now, I have grown not only accustomed to it, but find that it very much fits the story and the characters perfectly, blending the story and art to seamlessly, it would be impossible to have one without the other!

RATING:  9 tainted water bottles out of 10 for providing not only great supernatural stories, but also a character that has grown and evolved with each tale and continues to be engaging with every turn of the page!

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