A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Lorna is a comic about a girl who loves knives, loves to threaten boys, collects skeletons, and maybe is the reason those skeletons are available to be collected. It is about a girl who doesn’t understand parties, actively chooses to interact with cats over people, and who sat alone every day in the high school cafeteria because her constant companions were daggers and a hacksaw. Lorna is one of the most relatable comics I have ever read.
I’ve been a fan of Lorna ever since Benji Nate began putting strips up on LINE Webtoon. I liked the comic immediately for its dark humor and the subtle ways it dove into the titular character’s self-concept and insecurities. Lorna has adult acne, but when her best friend Norma does her makeup, she’s appalled to see her face without it. She’s shy around boys she crushes on because she’s worried they don’t like her back, but she’s never nervous when it’s time for violence. When I scrolled through those comics on a long train ride, I wasn’t thinking about how deeply I connected to them. But until it ended, Lorna was my favorite comic on the Webtoon app.
The Lorna book released through Silver Sprocket collects comics that were drawn before and take place before any of the LINE Webtoon strips. In the book, we see Lorna’s origins—her first date, her first party, and her first moments of friendship with Norma, the person who understands her better than anyone else.
On a casual flip-through, Lorna appears to be a collection of one-off gag strips. Fans of Benji Nate’s other work will enjoy scanning for familiar visuals. Her trademark femme pastel color palette immediately presents itself, but here the colors are centered on the bright green-yellow shade of Lorna’s hair. (Catboy, another Benji Nate/Silver Sprocket book that I reviewed with Melissa Brinks and adore, contains a lot of pale pinks and blues, which is perhaps ironic given Henry the cat’s super cute, genderfucky style.) A closer look reveals a few visual cues that communicate Lorna’s sense of alienation. Most of the background and side characters wear simpler clothing and have regular hair colors. Lorna always stands out on the page with her bright hair, cutsey dress bearing a cat face, and tendency to be holding sharp weapons. Norma also stands out when she appears, but because of her always cute cool-girl fashion, and her dark green hair, which connects her visually to Lorna.
Lorna’s strangeness is best communicated in one striking panel, in which she wonders why people don’t talk to her while literally sitting in a trashcan.
We all feel alone and alienated sometimes, but some of us have felt it more deeply than others. Earlier in my life, before I had found a queer community where I fit, I struggled with a kind of loneliness that I think a lot of queer people feel at one time or another. How can I acquire a sense of belonging when I feel so fundamentally different from those around me, or when I can’t relate on basic levels because I don’t crush on boys or wear dresses or like makeup?
The world of Lorna is perhaps fantastic in the way it lets Lorna get away with literal murder. However, it’s 95% the same as the real world, and Lorna is cute, antisocial, and murderous in a way that alienates her from normal people. Nate makes it clear that Lorna isn’t purely a hateful or nihilist character; in one of the earliest strips, she stops writing about hate in her diary because a bird sings cheerfully into her window. She also clearly loves and adores Norma and fears losing her, evidenced by her inability to believe that Norma will make time for her now that she’s got a boyfriend.
It’s not an inability to love or even like that makes Lorna different. Rather, it’s her violent tendencies and introversion that make it difficult for her to relate to others and make friends. Nate reminds the reader over and over that these aspects of Lorna’s personality are what separate her from others by making icons of violence pop off the page, and sometimes even off panels. Saws, knives, skeletons, and shockingly bright red pools of blood create a jarring “oh shit!” feeling that I felt again and again whenever the comic leaned into violence. Lorna operates on a completely different baseline where weaponry and death are part of her normal. She has no choice, no opportunity to change and become one of the popular girls. The intrusion of each sharp implement on a panel reminds us that Lorna can only be her strange self.
However, her general weirdness and introversion let even those shy of cartoon violence relate. Like so many of us, she finds a party host’s cat to be easier and quicker to connect with than a human stranger. Like many of us, she’s had crushes on problematic people, and had to explain her crushes to friends who didn’t understand. Like many of us, she had a shit time in high school, and it took a long time for her to find people that made her feel like she belonged.
Lorna is a cute, often sweet, often bloody, and highly relatable comic that deeply deserved its Ignatz nomination, and while it didn’t earn an actual brick, it’s a winner in my heart. If you read the strips Nate posted on LINE Webtoon you will especially want to pick up this collection and see the gory, heartwarming moment in which Lorna and Norma discovered that their destiny was to be best friends. Snag a copy from Silver Sprocket directly or request it at your local comic shop.