The Good Neighbors is written by Holly Black and illustrated by Ted Naifeh. Both are from the United States. Holly Black has written a number of fantasy novels for young adults including the very popular Spiderwick Chronicles – this is her first graphic novel. Ted Naifeh both writes and illustrates a number of comic series for people of varying ages but tends to focus more on works for a teen audience. (His comic Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things has also been included in this bibliography.)
Naifeh’s art of this book is an effective balance of stylization and representation. He knows when to contribute and withhold detail so the page have a complex moodiness without being too brimming with visual content. There is a great use of ink washes and textural line work that suits the narrative which also strives to balance realistic and fantastic elements. It does succeed in being a modernist invocation of Arthur Rackham’s – perhaps the unequivocal master of fairie illustration – intricate and compelling line work, and ability to synthesize the beautiful and gruesome. (Just after writing this I found an interview with Naifeh where he talks about this exact same thing – check it.)
Black conveys an interesting sense of creepy ennui and the pacing has a sporadic quality that still manages to feel engaging. If anything it feels very reminiscent of real life – if in real life the local coffee shop had both human and goblin clientele. Both the writer and artist are very comfortable with this type of material and their collaboration has the seamless, happy feeling of an auspicious creative confluence.
The urban fantasy tone of the art and the narrative take the fairie trope to a new level of maturity and complexity without losing the sense of eiriness of the genre. It’s much more reminiscent of the thematic and psychological complexity of Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market then other popular fantasy for young women which makes this an exciting book for girls who have always had that feeling that they don’t quite fit in…
Black, Holly (w) and Ted Naifeh (i). The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin (2008), Graphix. ISBN-10: 0439855624