The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Danica Novgorodoff. Roaring Brook/First Second, $29.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-59643-586-5
This vivid comic opens with a quote from the Economist describing the resurgence of “ghost marriages” in rural China, in which parents of dead men seek out the corpses of women so that their sons aren’t buried alone, sometimes even going as far as murder. After Deshi’s brother Wei is killed in a freak accident (an accident that their parents hold Deshi responsible for), he sets off to find a bride for Wei with the help of a corpse hunter. Striking out in graveyards and hospitals, Deshi eventually meets a woman named Lily Chen whom he resolves to kill, but his plans soon go awry. Humorous aspects of the story, including a motorcycle catching fire and a runaway donkey, don’t always fit in with the exploration of Deshi’s conflicted pursuit of Lily, both as a potential victim and as a potential wife. Novgordoff uses a flat visual style that gives the characters an iconic feeling as she captures the tensions between new and old traditions in Chinese society. Although the book is uneven, the story is striking and unusual overall. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014
Release date: 03/25/2014
Genre: Comics
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