Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trade Waiting – Lenore: Cooties

I have never read Lenore before, or really heard of her, but when Titan Books offered to comp me a copy I decided now might be the time to take the plunge. I will admit, I might not be the target audience for this book but it is something different that will find its target audience and give them exactly what they want. Hit the jump to see what exactly it is exactly this title offers.

Lenore: Cooties

Written and Art by Roman Dirge

Lenore is the cute little dead girl. With just a catch phrase like that, I can tell this book probably isn’t for me. I rarely read about female characters, very rarely little girls, and cute isn’t the type of fiction I dig on. However, she is dead. I can handle the macabre. So, I forged into this book to see what I would think.

This newly coloured collection includes issues 9-12 of the old comic. I never saw them in black and white but the colours here really pop off the page and add a depth that makes everything feel just that touch more dirty or excessively disgusting. This especially works on Dirge’s credit pages where he matches great graphic design with a simple animation style.

The character of Lenore is an interesting lead as I just don’t personally like her; she's not my type of character. I can see how she would be extremely popular, though. She plays on the cutesy talk, swapping articles and mashing new words, and she’s generally annoyingly persistent and oblivious. She will talk about random things, like bananas or a newfound love, in flippant tones only to move onto the next moving item to catch her eye. She is the ultimate expression of the ADHD generation and I could see many young girls laughing their asses off at the antics shown within this book.

In fact, I might have thought this book was perfect for young girls were it not for certain parts that strike me as slightly too adult. The rude words are generally bleeped out but there is still mention of ‘the need to make rabid love to a goat while wearing a sun dress and hat.’ This throwaway line is later referenced in a single panel of awkwardness and hilarity. But there is the chance I'm just being a prude and this comic is perfect for young girls.

This comic works on the repetition of callbacks and refusal to move on that have made a generation love recent comedy smashes like new age Simpsons, Family Guy, and other simple animations that don’t let logic get in the way of a good yarn. This isn’t about specifically world building and character progression through thought filled arcs. If there is an opportunity to get a laugh from a worm waking from death to take one more bite out of the dead girl’s hand then this will be played. If Lenore ‘blocking’ her partners in these illustrated theatre sports vignettes plays for a laugh then it’s worth it. This is not high art, and it would only laugh at high art and kick it in the shins with bladed boots if it got the chance.

There is an overall story in this book. Lenore has escaped from Heck. She walked out. So a Dark Overlord sends up his best bounty hunter to retrieve her. He then has to send someone after the bounty hunter who starts to like the land of the living too much. There are Heck Loogies, Nazi zombie soldiers, and fake twin sisters who turn into demons themselves within this tale. Any sort of idea Dirge can throw out will stay if it sticks to the wall with enough goo and stain around it. If any page looks a little boring then it needs a joke and so it gets one, no matter how crass or crude.

Lenore wants to stay out of Heck and her new friends, and old ones like Ragamuffin, the vampire in a rag doll’s body, help to keep her where she wants to be. Why they want to help her when all she does is argue beats me but it makes for some interesting set pieces. To say that the appearance of the Spam Witch is alarming and disturbing is underselling it all.

This main tale is interesting and worth checking out. It’s a sprawling saga of tangents and goofy punchlines that will amuse you pretty consistently, if that’s your thing. Lenore feels like the sort of book that needs its target audience. Not everyone will love it but those that do will love it, tattoo it, and punch you in the nose until they feel you understand their love.

Interestingly enough, it is all of the other little extras that I think make this book really worth owning. Dirge peppers in the odd 1-2 page personal memoir and those moments are truly hilarious. He catalogues using a restaurant urinal, or going on a pub crawl in a foreign country and it’s all slice of life comics that I would buy a whole book of. Lenore should be the back up to these moments. There is one page where he recounts his father’s obsession with scaring him and while the punchline falls flat it is the set up that makes me smile because this is what a good father is like; he’s a tormentor. This is what life is like, it’s full of cool and quirky people. The difference is, Dirge’s real life quirky moments are generally understated but his character, Lenore, is completely overstated. If there were truly a way to balance a joke on a mallet and smash it into your cranium then she would have done it five times already. Dirge’s real moments have far more resonance, with me at least.

Dirge structures a page really effectively. He knows how to fit plenty of dialogue into small panels and still give a feeling of it being a comic with pictures. He also knows how to use angles within his illustrations to great effect. He’s surprisingly a very efficient storyteller and you can only hope he’ll continue to do more work. At times, he can be a little on the nose, but sadly it is that sort of humour that the kids today really dig (and, yes, I’m aware of what I just said). Dirge is playing to an audience and he’s really composing a symphony of grotesque delights and jokey sound bites.

Verdict – Check It. This is the comic equivalent of Robot Chicken – light, easy, maybe even a little too easy (if you know what I mean…oh, wait, it’s a little girl…anyway), and it’s just gross enough to get people to laugh without calling in the book burners. It’s a comic that toes the line of decency and while I wouldn’t buy it for myself I can see how it could make me the coolest uncle on the block if I stuffed some stockings with it. Have a flip through this, I guarantee there’s a person in your life less mature than you who would get a great big ol’ kick in the pants out of this. So kick them in their pants this holiday season. Kick them hard.

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