One of the (many) things that I love about Ted Naifeh's "Courtney Crumrin" series is that when it's firing on all cylinders, it's full of surprises every time you turn around. Happily, "Courtney Crumrin" #9 is one of those issues that delivers just that.
It's a little surprising how briskly "Courtney Crumrin" #9 moves; after Courtney took refuge in the Twilight Kingdom last month, it would be a logical assumption that this was the start of many issues set there. Instead, it's a virtual rollercoaster ride as Courtney's arrival there coincides with the conspiracy back at the counsel reaching a peak, and Aloysius's attempt to bring Courtney in goes to new great lengths.
If "Courtney Crumrin" #9 was all big plot and action developments, it would certainly be enjoyable in its own right, but part of what makes "Courtney Crumrin" #9 (and the series on a whole) sing is that you care about these characters and what happens to them. What readers get is a book where as much hinges on Courtney's and Aloysius's emotional bond as it does the threat of losing memories and magical abilities.
Of course, it's the title character that is the star of the show here, and "Courtney Crumrin" #9 lets her bust loose. I love how she can be brash one moment, and then regretfully say (as much to herself as the other person in question), "I messed things up again, didn't I?" Courtney's often known for the amount of sass that she possesses, but Naifeh never lets her become a one-note character. She's got some rich emotional depths, and that's just as much the attraction as her witty one-liners.
The book looks nice, of course. Naifeh's signature look is on display here, sharp angles and all. He gets to cut loose here more than normal, with dozens of dark faerie creatures to illustrate, as well as castles and even courtroom chambers. This is a comic that doesn't lose sight of its backgrounds (which are all beautifully rendered), even as little moments like Aloysius's wink or a wistful look on Courtney's face spring to life. Colorist Warren Wucinich continues to make himself indespensible, too; for a comic that began as a black and white mini-series, I can't imagine the book without Wucinich's soft, tender hues added to the final look.
"Courtney Crumrin" #9 continues to roar forward with its second mini-series to great effect; this is the sort of book that I'll cheerfully read more than once. If you aren't reading "Courtney Crumrin," please reconsider. A smart, funny, emotionally stirring, well-drawn comic like "Courtney Crumrin" doesn't come along often. Let's make sure this one sticks around.