(Titan Comics 2015)
Written and Drawn by Roman Dirge
“…kids have a quality about them that lets them be insane, and gives them a playful lunacy that, quite simply, kicks ass.” I have never read a quote about children that seems as apt as this one, eloquently penned by Jhonen Vasquez in the forward of Roman Dirge’s latest book, Something at the Window is Scratching. What better way to describe children and childhood on the whole, that it is a vast tumble through sanity?
If you’re familiar with the name of Roman Dirge than the subject matter of the book shouldn’t surprise you. If not, here’s your primer. Dirge is the creator of the vastly popular Lenore series, about a young dead girl and her strange friends. It revolves around her misadventures and often involves the recreation of popular children’s stories and nursery rhymes.
In Something at the Window is Scratching Dirge doesn’t recreate the wheel. Here is a series of short poems, none longer than about five pages, which will rhyme you through the most macabre nursery you’ve ever visited.
Each of the poems has Dirge’s quirky wit and a twist of the darker elements that he’s developed in Lenore. (This is also “in-continuity” as much as anything like this can be, with a character from Lenore making an appearance.) Some are no longer than a couple of lines, like Devil Bunny, while reach a little longer like The Sideways Man.
I like Dirge’s style, and this is a great way to continue doing the same thing without having to stick strictly to the Lenore universe. These stories tug at you not only in the rhyme scheme, but also in the morbid little drawings that accompany them. There was one thing about the rhyme that sometimes caught for me, and that was that the rhythm was sometimes off. Not in the pattern of rhyme. I checked it, and even in the passages that I felt “bothered” me, the pattern was fine. Here is what I think happened. Each of the passages is centered and center-aligned on the page. Where each line breaks is not necessarily the end of the line, nor of the rhyme, and because of that, it feels like the rhymes aren’t right, even when they are. I don’t know if that was an oversight, or if it was on purpose, but I think it’s a genius move. Rather than falling into the normal rhyme scheme, my eye following and brain comprehending milli-seconds after (I’m sure I’m giving myself more credit than I should) because of the line break, it causes you to go back and re-read what you think you’ve already understood. It’s a little more uncertainty in the reading, which only lends to greater uneasiness as you read.
The art is fantastic. Dirge’s style fits perfectly, his drawings cute and disturbing at the same time, and iconic when you look closely at them. Pear Head Man and Bread Boy is an especially good one, along with the accompanying poem. The style recalls for me such strange artistic greats as Charles Addams and Edward Gorey.
If you’re a fan of Lenore, than this will look fine on the shelf next to your trades. If you’re looking for something creepy and rhyming; also a good one. If ever you read Shel Silverstein’s Haunted or Dr. Suess’s What was I Scared of? And thought…I wish they did more creepy stuff. Then Roman Dirge’s Something at the Window is Scratching is right up your alley.
Twitter – brad@comicwasteland