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Comic Book Review: Lenore #1

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After a print hiatus of two years, Roman Dirge's comic undead child Lenore has returned with a new publisher (Titan Books). To commemorate the occasional, cartoonist Roman Dirge has provided the Cute Little Dead Girl with her own origin. Those already familiar with Dirge's brand of loosey-goosey gothic humor will know what to expect.

For those of you who've historically passed on this title when it originally showed on comics shop shelves, a small recap is in order. Lenore (note the E.A. Poe name) is a ten-year-old undead girl who resides on the requisite creepy mansion with a living doll named Ragamuffin. The latter serves as a steadying voice of reason for Lenore, a thankless task since the big-headed moppet with the skull barrettes in her hair seems incapable of holding onto an idea for more than a few panels. When she shows up, for instance, with a branch inexplicably sticking through her noodly right arm, the easily distracted kid launches into a long rambling explanation that never answers how the stick got there. When Ragamuffin asks what her story has to do with her arm, her response is to stare down as if she's never seen it before. Lenore, the Attention Deficit Cute Little Dead Girl.

The "plot" in issue number one — such as it is — concerns the return of a figure from our heroine's past: the mortician who unsuccessfully attempted to embalm Lenore 100 years ago. As Dirge recounts our heroine's origin, the dead girl simply rose from the embalming table halfway through the procedure: no further explanation is given for her resurrection and perhaps none is needed. The event ruins stunned mortician Mortimer Fledge, though, and he's granted long life after a "ridiculous amount of embalming fluid" is squirted into his mouth. He subsequently stalks Lenore out of a desire to "finally finish my job." Once captured, the bound Lenore tries to win the villain over with balloon animals.

All fairly silly, though not without its moments of grotesque comic violence: during the embalming scene, for instance, Lenore's torso balloons with embalming fluid, like some cartoon animal getting inflated with air, though Dirge makes the moment look much more visually unpleasant than the old cartoons ever did. His bug-eyed drawing style and convincingly childlike characterization mute the strip's essential bleakness, however. If the end results aren't Edward Gorey — or even Charles Addams — they do possess their own appealingly goofy brand of dementia.

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.