Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom
by Ted Naifeh
Courtney Crumrin keeps getting better. The first chapter in this collection is a stand-alone story, with Courtney going back to her old city where she once lived a mundane childhood and discovers that indeed you can't go home again. It's pretty standard stuff, but the creepy ending works well. The remainder of the book finds Courtney enrolled at a Saturday Coven School for young witches and warlocks (if Hogwarts is like an English boarding school, this is more like Hebrew School or Bible School). She finds that she gets along with the magic kids just as well as she does with normal kids, i.e. not very well. But when a spell goes wrong, it's up to Courtney to save the day as she takes a group of kids into the Goblin domain. Adults play a minor role this time out, excepting the Javert-like Templeton who suspects that the young Miss Crumrin is up to no good. Naifeh's art is superb, with just the right mix of cartooniness & menace, and his writing and characterization is top-notch. I especially appreciate that the villains, if you can call them that, are complex characters with real motivations that go beyond just being bad. The situations in Courtney Crumrin are not exactly novel, but the way in which Naifeh puts them together makes for a great read.
Rating: 4 (of 5)
The Wang: The Big One
by Stan Yan
The cover of this graphic novel is a mock-up of the packaging of a vibrator, which ought to tell you something about the sophomoric level of humor that much of this book entails. It actually opens on a high note, as the protagonist, Eugene Wang, stressing out about his last final exam of college, has a dream wherein he realizes just days before the final that he has registered for a class that he forgot about attending all semester. (This is very similar to a dream I myself have had many times--both while in college and since--though thankfully my recurring dream doesn't end in the same way that Eugene's does!) After graduation (and after his girlfriend leaves him to shack up with his mother) Eugene finds work as a phone saleman for a shifty investment firm, moonlights at the bottom level of a multi-level marketing scheme, and gets sucked into a cult of personality by a pretty girl. Yan has a good sense of pacing and his cartoony art works well. If the humor ever aspired to rise out of the gutter this could have been better; I'd like to see Yan put his obvious talent to better use.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)