Much of the appeal of Cemetery Girl is, I imagine, the fame of writers Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, whose names take up about half the cover of each volume. Harris is best known for the Sookie Stackhouse book series, which became the TV show True Blood. Golden wrote the best-selling book Ararat, a number of Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels, and a long list of other horror and fantasy books.
The story focuses on a young woman who finds herself left for dead in a graveyard with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She names herself based on what she finds around her on signs and gravestones: Calexa Rose Dunhill. Afraid for her life and that her killer might try to finish the job, Calexa decides to stay in the cemetery while attempting to solve the mystery of her past.
The comic spans three volumes: The Pretenders, Inheritance, and Haunted. Each volume has its own story arc while doing a bit to advance the overall narrative. Along the way, Calexa has help from various kind souls, in both a figurative and literal sense. She discovers at some point she can see ghosts, possibly as a result of her near-death experience, and finds herself in situations where she is compelled to help ghosts of people who die around her.
Cemetery Girl had some entertainment value but overall could have used another draft. The plot is full of moments and actions that seemed contrived or didn’t quite make sense to me. There were conveniently quite a lot of murders happening around Calexa, some entirely unrelated to her own attempted murder, and the murderers’ motivations weren’t always believable. The dialogue was a bit clunky and in some cases, especially the teenagers throughout the book, it seemed the writers were trying too hard to make characters sound realistic but missing the mark. Many things in the book seemed to happen simply because the writers decided they should happen, but not necessarily because they fit the flow of the narrative. On the whole, I found the tone of the comic a bit melodramatic.
The pacing of the comic is a bit strange, as well. The first two volumes have largely self-contained story arcs in which Calexa must help a ghost, but her own mystery barely advances. The third volume suddenly kicks into high gear, revealing everything and tying up loose ends in a resolution that juggles quite a number of tropes.
The artist and colorist change part of the way through: volumes 1 and 2 are drawn by Don Kramer and colored by Daniele Rudoni, while volume 3 is drawn by Geraldo Borges and colored by Morgan Hickman and Mohan. Kramer’s art works but I didn’t find it particularly impressive. Expressions are not very subtle and sometimes make characters look too different from panel to panel, and character designs in general are not the most distinctive. I had no idea how old Calexa was supposed to be based on how she’s depicted. Rudoni’s coloring does a good job setting the atmosphere and mood of the comic. Borges’s art has a more comic strip feel to it, and I preferred it, though it may take some getting used to, especially as the appearance of some characters changes significantly when he takes over.
The idea of Cemetery Girl is somewhat similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book but aimed at an older audience. The comic would probably be most appropriate for older teens and above, as it features violence and death, blood, supernatural elements, and the suggestion of sexual content (i.e. Calexa being catcalled by men on the street). There’s a fair amount of swearing; I personally could have done without women being called slurs so frequently. The main characters are mostly white, straight, able-bodied, etc., though a fair number of the supporting and background characters are racially diverse. The book does not feature much significant diversity.
On the whole, I liked the premise of the comic and I liked Calexa’s character, but I felt the execution could have been better. Existing fans of Harris and Golden may find Cemetery Girl enjoyable, as well as anyone who enjoys murder mystery, suspense, and paranormal stories without too much of a critical eye, but on the whole the comic is not an essential library purchase.
Cemetery Girl, vols. 1-3
by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden
Art by Don Kramer, Daniele Rudoni, Geraldo Borges, Morgan Hickman, Mohan
vol 1: The Pretenders
vol 2: Inheritance
vol 3: Haunted
Publisher Age Rating: T+