The Undertaking of Lily Chen
By Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, 2014. 432 pages. Graphic Novel
When hapless young Deshi accidentally kills his brother by pushing him in front of a moving Jeep, Deshi's parents send him on a mission to acquire a "corpse bride" to accompany his brother into the afterlife. Problem is, eligible dead girls are in extremely short supply. Guilt-ridden Deshi seeks the help of a matchmaker, a grave robber, and a hospital attendant before he runs into stubborn, spirited Lily, who would make a perfect bride if she weren’t so alive . . . and Deshi can't decide if he should kiss the girl, or kill her.
I wasn't quite sure what I was in for with The Undertaking of Lily Chen, but overall, the outing was a delightful one. While I was put off at times by Lily's self-centeredness, I ended up rooting for her because of her tart, quick wit and irrepressible sense of self. The artwork is sparse: backgrounds evoke the grace of ancient Chinese art, while the character designs are modern, a tactic that highlights the clash between old traditions and contemporary society. While I would recommend Gene Luen Yang's Boxers and Saints over this title, I still found the story compelling, at times funny, and occasionally a little verklempt-making. A good choice for readers whose tastes in graphic novels skew literary.