Review: The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

May 11, 2018
 The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Danica Novgorodoff, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: First Second on March 25, 2014
Format Read: Paperback Edition (430 pages)
Genre: Graphic Novel/ Fantasy
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Library
The Undertaking of Lily Chen
Deshi Li's brother is dead—and unmarried. Which means that Deshi must find him an eligible body before the week is up.

Lily Chen, sweet as a snakebite, needs money and a fast ride out of town.

Haunted by the gods of their ancestors and the expectations of the new world, Deshi and Lily embark on a journey with two very different destinations in mind.

They travel through a land where the ground is hard and the graves are shallow, where marriage can be murder and where Lily Chen is wanted—dead and alive.


Content Warning: Vulgar Language, Sexual Innuendo, Violence


This comic follows Deshi shortly after his brother has been killed. He sets out to find a corpse to marry his deceased brother, it is a Chinese custom followed so that a unmarried deceased person will not be alone in the afterlife. I expected the story to be darker than it was, but the people and situations Deshi encounter involved a lot of humor. Deshi's parents send him out and after remembering his brother fondly for his ambition. I expected more fantasy or paranormal elements that could have added more depth to Deshi's journey.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen, InToriLex
The artwork is done on rice paper in watercolor. There was far more artwork than dialogue included in the panels. The sparse dialogue failed to keep me interested, the comic would be more engaging if it was shorter. The plot itself seems stagnant at times and the use of vulgar language and violence clashes with the delicate water color artwork. I learned more about Chinese culture but I am always skeptical of someone stereotyping or describing a culture they aren't from.This was a great concept that could have been done much better.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen, InToriLex

Recommended for Readers Who
-enjoy comics that explore Chinese culture
-appreciate water color art


Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer, graphic novelist, graphic designer and horse wrangler from Kentucky who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has published three graphic novels: A Late Freeze (2006), Slow Storm (2008), and Refresh, Refresh (included in Best American Comics 2011). Her fourth graphic novel, The Undertaking of Lily Chen, is forthcoming from First Second Books in 2014. 

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