I have been a fan of Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series for years. When I heard there were two new books available, I jumped up to grab them. Though, much to my surprise, they are not actually about the character Courtney Crumrin. Rather, these are tales set in the past of the same universe.
This specific story is told over the course of two installments. The first is A Portrait of the Warlock as a Young Man. The second is The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. The books center around a young and ambitious woman named Alice Crisp, and a young man with a secret named Aloysius. Alice is working for her father’s law firm when Aloysius is brought in as a clerk. However, the law firm is actually a front for a society set on eradicating all sorcerers from the world. Though their real motive may not be all that it seems.
Overall, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in this latest offering to the Crumrin universe. It’s clear the intention was to do something that diverged from the first set of Courtney Crumrin books, but these lacked the same pop that their predecessors possess. I also feel as if there was more to the story that we simply weren’t getting, and for that reason it felt uneven and a bit forced. There were moments of brilliance, but not enough to really hold my interest.
There seemed to be very little by way of character development. We are thrust into the meat of what’s going on fairly quickly, so we get relatively little time to better understand the characters. Perhaps my favorite part of both books was the re-occurrence of the character Butterworm, who is a rather impishly funny supernatural critter.
The books, entirely illustrated in black and white, take on an almost noir look. If you’re familiar with Ted Naifeh’s work, you’ll recognize his very distinct illustration style which has a very stark and almost gothic look. The art in this series is decent, but I felt like something was missing here, too.
These two installments just didn’t click for me, despite my excitement to read them. Maybe it’s not fair that I’m holding these two latest releases up to the books that have come before, but I did have higher expectations because the others were just that good and memorable. I know there is a richer world behind this series, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of it.