The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 144 | Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 2: The Coven of Mystics special edition hardcover review

Leaving Proof 144 | Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 2: The Coven of Mystics special edition hardcover review
Published on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 by
The second special edition hardcover collecting Ted Naifeh’s early Courtney Crumrin stories is out and it’s pretty awesome. How awesome? Read the full review to find out!

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Delightfully engrossing supernatural mystery plot.
  • Main character arc shows remarkable depth and development.
  • Occasional scenes of supernatural horror and violence are handled judiciously.
  • Pleasing, stylized sense of visual design.
  • Solid graphic storytelling.

Cons:

  • 25% price hike from previous volume.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Oni Press
  • Publication Date: August 2012
  • Written and Illustrated by: Ted Naifeh
  • Colored by: Warren Wucinich
  • Format: 144 page full-color hardcover. Collects Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics #s 1–4, originally published in single magazine format by Oni Press in 2002.
  • List Price: $24.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on August 29, 2012

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Suggested Background Reading

Some recent, related articles to put the full review in context:

Full Review

Oni Press’ Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 2: The Coven of Mystics collects the second Courtney Crumrin adventure, updating the four-issue black-and-white all-ages horror mini-series originally released in 2002 as a full color special edition hardcover.

The story picks up a few weeks into a new school year, with Courtney growing ever more comfortable—even slightly reckless—with her magical abilities, rapidly improving her spell-weaving skills under the influence of her warlock uncle Aloysius and her own drive to excel as a young witch. The status quo is subtly but importantly changed from that of Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 1: The Night Things—Courtney’s classmates are now consciously aware of her supernatural abilities, it seems, and she is feared by bullies and classroom acquaintances alike. All of which suits Courtney just fine, as she looks to eventually match her uncle in both magical aptitude and social indifference. A new, magic-savvy schoolteacher named Miss Crisp thinks that Courtney is neglecting her schoolwork in favor of her obsessive study of all things magic and takes steps to bring a balance between the girl’s mystic and regular education. Additionally, Crisp is concerned at Courtney’s growing social detachment. Before long, Courtney, Aloysius, and even Miss Crisp are drawn into a supernatural murder-mystery involving a resurrected hobgoblin and the byzantine politics of the town’s powerful coven of mystics.

Courtney’s interactions with Aloysius and Crisp throughout the book reveal the remarkable depth and development that informs her character arc. At the end of The Night Things and the beginning of The Coven of Mystics, Courtney seems dead-set to pattern herself after Aloysius, a powerful but reclusive maverick feared by his peers in the warlock community. As her investigation into the murder at the core of plot proceeds however, Courtney is again and again exposed to instances where power and intimidation are insufficient tools for reaching one’s goals. No matter how powerful or feared one is, inevitably, there will always be someone or something more powerful and more intimidating, and different approaches must be applied to achieve success. She also sees that her uncle, for all his mystical might and reputation, harbors a glaring vulnerability: throughout his involvement in the murder investigation and post-investigative deliberations, his emotional remoteness blinds him to the types of insights that would have revealed the truth at the heart of the matter to a more sensitive soul.

The Coven of Mystics is at its core very much a coming-of-age tale. Courtney sees a beloved and idolized parent-figure confounded, defeated even. She becomes a witness to the deceptions, betrayals, emotional manipulations, and self-inflicted pain of the adult world. And through it all, she comes out a little bit wiser, maybe even a little bit kinder, but just as importantly, she just might have come out of it with a new realization of the responsibility her great powers come with.

Naifeh doesn’t shy away from portraying the occasional scenes of supernatural horror and violence despite the advertised “all-ages” rating. He handles these scenes judiciously and in good taste, although I would probably advise against showing some of the more violent panels to the under-seven set. The pleasing, stylized sense of visual design is enhanced in the special edition hardcover by Warren Wucinich’s colors. The muted palette brings out the best in the line art without overwhelming it. As in the previous volume, Naifeh’s graphic storytelling chops are solid.

My one misgiving about the book has nothing to do at all with its content: The Coven of Mystics boasts a 25% hike in cover price from The Night Things, going from $19.99 to $24.99 whilst retaining the same page count. I’m certain that Oni Press has perfectly reasonable economic justifications for the price increase, but it is still somewhat disappointing to see the price go up so much, especially since I’m of the opinion that this is the perfect kind of book to appeal to female readers and younger readers (regardless of gender) looking to get into the medium. That’s not to say that Courtney Crumrin, Vol. 2: The Coven of Mystics is just for girls and kids, though. It is an excellently crafted book that any comic book fan is sure to enjoy. Very highly recommended.

Discuss this article below or contact the author via e-mail
4 Responses
    • I was surprised at how much I like the Crumrin series.

      • Me too. When I first heard about the Crumrin comic book back in 2002, I casually (and foolishly) dismissed it as just another “indie darling” buoyed up by pop culture trends… a cleverly-timed goth girl/Harry Potter mash-up. Finally getting around to reading the comics these past few months, though, and I have to say, they are really, really good. I’m hard-pressed to remember the last comic book that I unreservedly felt recommending to both, say, nine-year olds and much, much older comic book lifers and everyone in between.

    • For the record, I was not in favor of the price hike. But according to the bean counters at Oni, the first volume was under-priced to grab new readers. So it’s all how you look at it, I suppose. If had my way, it’d all be free. But then I wouldn’t be able to do it, because I’d be stuck flipping burgers.

      • Well, I guess that’s the vagaries of current comic book (and more generally, print) pricing for you. I don’t mean to suggest that the price hike is unreasonable, but it did strike me as a little surprising and somewhat disappointing (from a fan/consumer’s perspective) in its immediacy.

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