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Roman Dirge‘s Lenore is about a dead 10-year-old girl. Which is to say, Lenore will basically be a dead 10-year-old girl forever. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by her longevity.
I don’t actually remember when I first knew about Lenore. I knew about the comic although I never really read it, but I do remember watching the animated shorts made for Sony’s Screenblast (you can view them on Dirge’s site). Still, Dirge’s comic, along with Jhonen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac did a lot to bring in non-comics readers to comics, partially due to their sale at mall stores like Hot Topic as well as the two creator’s association with Invader ZIM.
I’m happy Lenore has found at home at Titan Books and Lenore: Cooties (2010, Titan Books) is the third and final volume of Dirge’s original run of Lenore.
This isn’t for everyone. A comic about a dead 10-year-old, her ex-vampire friend who is now in the form of a ragdoll and her obsessive suitor/stalker Mr. Gosh is going to have pretty limited appeal, after all. And then you combine that with all kinds of gross-out humor and gore, and well, this definitely becomes the sort of thing teenagers enjoy giggling over and hiding from their parents.
It’s self-consciously subversive, obviously, but what Dirge is doing here is actually playful. It’s certainly twisted and pretty sick, but it never feels overly cruel. I don’t feel there is a compassion underneath all the comedic gore — that’s not the point of this, after all — but Dirge is obviously having fun seeing what he’ll let himself get away with. It’s hard to not feel a bit charmed by that, even if this isn’t for you.
Dirge’s art has a kind of make-it-up-as-he-goes-along feel to it, with his trademark thick black outlines and handwritten word balloons that threaten to take over some panels. Still, he has a good sense of comedic timing, even when his punchlines are disgusting, and I enjoyed how much it kept throwing the unexpected at me.
(And if the “real life” strip of Dirge’s father scaring him as a child by doing things like hiding under his bed to grab his ankle and hiding in his closet are to be believed, Dirge has obviously come by this perspective naturally.)
The washed-out colors (except for the deep bloody reds) in this edition are a nice addition to the original black-and-white artwork. Also featured is an art gallery, bonus strips, and a foreword by none other than Neil Gaiman, who praises Lenore as his favorite little dead girl in all of literature.
I will say, at this point, you will probably know if Lenore is for you. If it is, you really can’t do any better. For me, it doesn’t quite match up with my sensibilities at this point in my life, but I was more entertained than I expected to be.
Review copy provided by Titan Books.