Benji Nate’s Lorna is one of the cuter books to cross my transom in a minute. I debated how and whether to use the word “cute” because under certain circumstances it can certainly be an insult, and indeed the last thing I would want to do is be seen to damn with faint praise merely by calling a book “cute.” But in this instance “cute” is the word because it seems difficult to imagine from the results on display that Nate wasn’t striving for cute the whole time.
The titular Lorna is a bit of an odd duck, by which I means she really likes carrying knives and stabbing things. She’s carrying a knife on the cover, carrying a knife on the first page, and although I didn’t actually count she’s carrying a knife on most of the interior pages as well. “Threatening boys with knives is just a hobby of mine,” she relates. Just one of those girls who really likes murdering people, y’know? And only sometimes scavenging their bodies for loot, like sunglasses.
It bears mentioning that while a girl who carries a knife and likes to murder people might seem kind of “goth” on paper, in practice Lorna really works hard on a separate and distinct “dirtbag” aesthetic - far cheaper, fewer trips to Hot Topic. I mean, you can still go if you want but you already shoplifted everything she needs.
There’s not much of a plot, and the book follows a loose structure of single-page gags slowly coalescing into the direction of a simple story about Lorna’s first date. Back in high school she liked another dirtbag named Sid. Now, of course, Sid was kind of a dink. On his first date with Lorna he calls her ugly, after which she ties him up. Another kid bashes his head in and they bury him where he falls. “What a lousy date,” Lorna says with the shovel resting on her shoulder.
The nature of cute is such that you don’t want to place to much weight on it. Lorna is a fun book - but again, “fun” is practically a dirty word in some circles. If you like cute and fun books about dirtbag girls who stab people - and honestly, with a come-on like that I don’t see how you can possibly lose - well, this might just be the book for you.
Nate’s art is loose and comfortable. The soft hand-colored pastels give the book a familiar and quite welcoming warmth. The characters designs are flexible and memorable, and I’m not just saying that because Lorna’s generally unkempt shock of green hair kind of resembles that of your humble reviewer. Her eyes are always sort of screwed at odd angles, communicating both the consternation and disinterest of the natural born dirtbag.
Despite the frequent stabbery there’s not a lot of blood on display: Lorna’s adventures occur in the liminal space between action and dream, so its a plastic realm defined by comedic hyperbole. But only so much hyperbole: when prodded to find a job, so as to better pay rent in a new apartment, she responds, “I’ve been lookin’. Nobody’s hiring.” To which her friend responds, “I don’t think many places are looking to hire a gal who never leaves her room.” I mean, yeah, ouch, warn me next time before you call me out like that, Benji Nate.
Lorna carries the kind of remit that makes reviews of this nature potentially dangerous: like I say, you don’t really want to overstate and risk burying the book under sophistry. It’s a fun story with a memorable character, produced with wit and no small degree of craft. It’s a pleasant package. I could read five more just like it, and really, can you think of a nicer thing to say about any book?