Enjoy ‘Beetlejuice’ and ‘Invader Zim?’ Then Read ‘Lenore: Swirlies’
When Titan Books offered to send me a copy of Lenore: Swirlies, my initial reaction was genuine surprise. I was shocked to finally encounter something zombie-related that I never heard of before. As a rabid enthusiast of all things undead I’m usually well-versed in genre films and literature, yet somehow Roman Dirge’s Lenore series had escaped me. So I decided to take the plunge and read Swirlies, and I’m thankful that I did, because it’s hilarious.
For the uninitiated, Lenore is an undead comic book character created by artist Roman Dirge and named after the titular woman from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Lenore doesn’t hunger for human flesh though. She lives in a town called Nevermore (also borrowed from Poe), where she tries to combat youthful boredom with her adorable pal Ragamuffin and her masked friend Pooty.
The title for Swirlies, Dirge’s fourth Lenore installment, comes from Dirge’s penchant for naming his volumes after childhood afflictions. Other Lenore books include Noogies, Wedgies, and Cooties. The author playfully admits though, that he may be running out of words in that category to use for book titles.
In the introduction to Swirlies, Dirge refers to his Lenore adventures as a “carnival of madness,” which a rather apt description for his zany storylines. With quirky humor slightly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s films, Dirge’s heroine and her pals face bizarre problems like a time-traveling cyborg mortician, a creepy stalker, and alimony payments. Although her experience might be outlandish, Lenore is entertaining as a character because she has the naivety and mischievous nature of a child mixed with the teenage sarcastic cynicism of Lydia from Beetlejuice.
Lenore’s tales are interspersed with other short comics starring Dirge himself, which are called “Things Involving Me.” He uses these shorts as opportunities to connect with the reader by recounting amusing anecdotes from his life. One particularly funny moment involves an instance where he was mistaken for a vampire. These autobiographical strips are good for a chuckle, but they also provide a much needed change of pace.
Dirge’s dark sense of humor works most of the time, even when he’s making heavy-handed pop culture references to films like Aliens and The Crow. However it does get a bit too morbid for me at points and it’s certainly not for everyone. Regardless of what you think of his jokes though, the artwork in Dirge’s book is breathtaking. Landscapes and characters are beautifully drawn and inked. You can tell a lot of love and labor went into them, especially the covers for each Lenore section. The art’s quality is reinforced by an old-fashioned hardcover binding and shade of green.
Stylistically the appearance of Dirge’s characters reminded me of the show Invader Zim, which made sense once I found out that Dirge wrote for the show and published on the same comic label as its creator Jhonen Vasquez. My hunch is that fans of the program would get a kick out of this series if they don’t know about it already.
If you like bizarre dark comedy, talking reanimated corpses, and comics that don’t take themselves too seriously, then you’ll probably enjoy Lenore: Swirlies. It’s a quick read that got me to laugh out loud several times and has me interested and reading Dirge’s previous volumes.
Lenore: Swirlies is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
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