BOOK REVIEW – Lenore: Pink Bellies by Roman Dirge (Graphic Novel)

By Marty Mulrooney

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Lenore: Pink Bellies is the latest collection of Lenore, The Cute Little Dead Girl comic books created by American artist and writer Roman Dirge. Published by Titan Books, Pink Bellies collects together Volume 2 issues 8-11 which make up the four-issue ‘Who Will Die?’ story arc. With each turn of the page, Lenore’s sinister neighbour Taxerdermy’s origin story will finally be revealed, setting into motion a series of dark and ridiculous adventures that will culminate in the death of one major character… forever.

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Previously released Lenore collections (Lenore: Cooties, Lenore: Swirlies) often included multiple story arcs (or separate mini-stories), but Pink Bellies is entirely self-contained. This makes it a wonderful starting point for newcomers, whilst the numerous in-jokes and references to previous adventures will make it equally enjoyable for longtime fans.

In fact, Roman Dirge starts off with a clever little trick – he begins Chapter 1 (of 4) in 1880 with a French archaeologist unwittingly unleashing the vengeful god ‘Taxen-Ra’, before jumping to the present where a television crew for ‘Ghosty Toasty’ are about to enter a supposedly haunted mansion… It feels like a self-contained mini-story, but the mansion is Lenore’s home and Taxen-Ra is her uber-mysterious (seriously creepy) protector, Taxidermy!

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Lenore and her friends Pooty (a bucket-headed bounty hunter) and Ragamuffin (a vampire who has been turned into a rag doll) must think fast – so Pooty pokes them with his pitchfork, partially shifting them into another dimension where they can’t be seen. A dimension where there are duplicate versions of Lenore, Pooty and Ragamuffin… with squid bodies, and tentacles for legs.

It starts off silly and gets sillier and sillier, with the film crew ‘accidentally’ disappearing one by one. Then the other gods turn up looking for Taxen-Ra (aka Taxidermy), some mysterious operatives turn up looking to capture Lenore (her friends are expendable, as always!) and all hell breaks loose. To begin with, gas canisters are launched, casing the trio to ‘trip balls’. At one point, Lenore decides to hide Ragamuffin in a ‘tiny cave’… that is actually a bear’s anus! It’s crude. It’s dark. It’s absolutely hilarious.

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Lenore: Pink Bellies might just be the best collection of Lenore, The Cute Little Dead Girl released to date. The razor-sharp dialogue never misses a beat (especially when it involves the comedy gold bromance between Pooty and Ragamuffin), the action is genuinely exciting, the stylish Tim Burton-esque artwork elevates every joke to even greater heights and each turn of the page evokes yet another genuine laugh. Out loud. When’s the last time you did that reading a comic book? Roman Dirge makes good jokes then keeps making them over and over again until somehow, against the odds, they get even funnier. With material this good, it looks like the cute little dead girl has a long life ahead of her!

9 OUT OF 10

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