- Posted by Johanna on May 18, 2011 at 7:37 am
- Category: Indy Comic Reviews
- CREDITS: by Ted Naifeh
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $5.99 US
The publisher introduces Courtney Crumrin Tales #2: The League of Ordinary Gentlemen as the “long-awaited sequel to Portrait of the Warlock of a Young Man” (in case you were wondering what was Courtney Crumrin Tales #1). Unfortunately, that title was released in 2005 and is sadly now out of print and going for inflated prices. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this historical fantasy adventure, since the installments stand alone.
When we first met Courtney, her uncle Aloysius was a grumpy old magician, locked away from the world. In this series, he’s the focus, as we explore his earlier life, not as a child, but as a young man first venturing into the world. In the first book, he’s a law clerk, working for Horace Crisp. Horace is also the leader of the Anti-Sorcery Society, and his daughter, Alice, desperately wants into that family business. Thus, it’s something of a conflict when she finds out that Aloysius is himself a warlock.
In League of Ordinary Gentlemen, Aloysius and Alice start by attending a party given by the mysterious, preternaturally young Lady Emma. This kind of dissolute historical setting is perfect for Ted Naifeh’s spiky gothic style, what with the gowns and variety of fancy faces and inspiring architecture. Family connections have their effect in unexpected ways, before we enter the story proper.
Aloysius and Alice are taking on missions for the Anti-Sorcery Society, making Aloysius a double agent. Although he’s one of them, he’s been eliminating magicians for his own purposes. The setup is rather like a steampunk Buffy, with a cadre of stodgy, somewhat clueless old men sending a plucky young blonde and her supernatural boyfriend on missions against the mystical and dangerous. Naifeh’s art is distinctive and lovely, beautifully suited to this story and these characters.
When the two are sent to a town the Society calls the “motherlode of evil”, home to all kinds of sorcerers, they find unexpected connections to Aloysius’ ancestors. Twists, surprises, and spells come fast, making this an exciting page-turner, but also more. There’s an underlying message about tolerance among different groups who ultimately want the same thing: to live in peace and happiness. The lesson is that it’s not the tool, but the motivation of those who use it, that determines good or evil.
This was a delightful read, and while the first issue isn’t necessary at all to enjoy it, those who do may want to read more. I hope that Oni puts out a collected edition later this year, similar to what they did with Courtney’s adventures The Prince of Nowhere and The Fire Thief’s Tale. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)