There’s an unexpected start to Courtney Crumrin and the Twilight Kingdom. Beyond the story mechanics required to house Courtney in her warlock Uncle Aloysius’ mansion, contact with the real world has been minimal. Ted Naifeh’s opening chapter here returns Courtney to her old neighbourhood for a really good, but downbeat story in which nothing goes right as she tries to reconnect with a friend she’d last seen a year previously.

Beyond that Twilight Kingdom reverses the previously set pattern of three individual stories pulling together in a concluding episode by having that opening chapter followed by three continuing episodes. Courtney’s been to the Twilight Kingdom before in her opening volume, and Naifeh again impresses with the sheer busy detail he invests in the first spread located there (see sample art). The story is a form of reflection, as mistakes are made and need to be rectified, but this time it’s not Courtney making those mistakes. She’s learned from her previous experiences, and would rather listen to idiots boasting than crow about her own talents. Except when they really screw up her conscience won’t let them suffer the consequences of their own stupidity.

Naifeh selects the characteristics of the children he’s using well, and the story can be read in places as allegorical, with the Goblin Kingdom standing in for Iraq or Syria, and some attitudes offered being those of the ignorant. He also uses his art to define the darkness within the magical characters. Courtney may wear darker clothing, but she’s still largely white, whereas the really dangerous creatures and people in the series are swathed in black. The Twilight King is defined with a cross-hatched uniform and a head crowned with shadowy branches. It’s a wonderfully threatening design. In all his Courtney Crumrin graphic novels Naifeh credits Anne Hogland for design assistance, and between them they create some incredibly creepy creatures, one of whom for this story is a good old-fashioned witch hunter.

As we should expect by this third volume, Twilight Kingdom is a supernatural treat, with the gloomy Courtney capable, fearless and heroic, and some people even able to learn from her example. All in all, very satisfying. Next Courtney joins her Uncle on his travels in A Portrait of the Warlock as a Young Man.