I know I’m late to this, but did you know Knives Out is a very very good movie? I watched it with my partner a few weeks ago and had to keep pausing so that we could shout at each other about how much we were enjoying it, stupefied that a modern film could be so good.
Only once in a very long while are any of us lucky enough to stumble across a piece of media that resonates at our own precise frequency, a perfect book or movie or song, and of course everyone’s frequency is unique. (I have a friend who watches The Hours literally every day. I don’t get it.)
In addition to Knives Out, My Neighbor Totoro, and A Confederacy of Dunces, Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series has been that for me (and for many others judging from his books’ place on the New York Times best-seller list). It’s been about a decade since he’s released a new title in the series, but this week we have our first new Crumrin tale in ten years and ohhh, my friends, fear not, it’s as excellent as any of his past work. Your responsibility, if you enjoy pleasure, is to devour the entire series.
Thanks as always to Phoenix for helping to pick out this week’s top picks, and for being a neighborhood nexus of delights.
Five Magic Rooms
You will be enchanted by every single page of Five Magic Rooms, a story about a girl named Mina who visits her friend Pie’s house for the first time. I’m reminded of the day that I left the small Connecticut town where I grew up and moved to Boston — wow the world is huge and exciting and there are so many people who live very different lives from my own! It took until I was 18 years old to experience that feeling, which is why anyone who has young readers (preschool to third grade seems about right) in their lives ought to have this book in rotation. Mina’s trepidation about spending time at someone else’s house is quickly replaced by wonderment at the fascinating arrangement of Pie’s home and routine, and her visit becomes a wide-eyed exploration of — and appreciation for — the unknown. Light on plot but generous with sensory details, the book will be particularly helpful for kids who need a little extra preparation before embarking on new experiences. But it’s also a potent prompt for more adventurous youngsters who will appreciate having a jumping-off point for envisioning explorations of their own.
Rating: 🏠🏠🏠🏠🏠 (5/5)
Author: Laura Knetzger.
Imogen of the Wyrding Way #1
The premise is strong: A monster-hunting witch in World War II Europe! But alas the plot is threadbare and unsurprising. Imogen is a side character from other Mike Mignola works, and this short one-shot fleshes her out a bit with an adventure and a quarter. This is a book for existing fans; if you haven’t taken the time to read Lady Baltimore you’ll still be able to follow along, but you might find yourself wondering why. For her part, Imogen is a marvelous character, particularly when she has the wisdom to know when a situation calls for seducing men with a more metaphorical form of magic. Her ability to mix quiet sleuthing with aggressive magic is a genuine treat, though in this book she barely has an opportunity to get creative with her skills. If only this was issue #1 of a series, so Imogen could have sufficient room to adventure! As it is, it feels like we barely have time to understand her.
Rating: 🧙♀️🧙♀️🧙♀️ (3/5)
Writers: Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden. Artist: Peter Bergting. Colorist: Michelle Madsen. Cover Artist: Peter Bergting.
The Crumrin Chronicles, Volume 1: The Charmed & the Cursed
It’s been nearly ten years since we’ve had a new tale in this series, and picking up this volume feels like stumbling across a priceless and long-lost book of spells. A tale of gothic horror and redemption for young and old, the Crumrin books concern a family of secret sorcerers and the children who discover — and learn through difficult lessons to wield — their own sinister powers. The books published a decade ago concerned a young girl named Courtney and her adventures through a world of dark magic; she’s older now, wiser, and charged with the care of her younger brother (about whom, you will not be surprised to learn, there is more than meets the eye). Like the very best episodes of Buffy, the book weaves adolescent angst with evil fairies, juxtaposing the timeless battles of vampires versus saints with the even more timeless battles of nerds and jocks. Naifeh’s glowering characters are full of soul, even the undead, and this return to the series was absolutely worth the wait. Do yourself a favor and pick up the previous seven-volume run before you dive into this new book. If you’re lucky, you’ll remain lost in it forever.
Rating: 🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇 (6/5)
Author: Ted Naifeh.