Like A Many Layered Onion, But Dipped In LSD: Reviewing Kid Lobotomy #1 By Peter Milligan And Tess Fowler

by Olly MacNamee

Frank Quitely’s variant cover for Kid Lobotomy #1

Peter Milligan has been doing wonderfully weird for most of his professional working life and Kid Lobotomy, the first title from IDW’s new imprint, Black Crown, is no different, challenging readers to keep up with the off-kilter world in which our eponymous hero exists. And that world is a very gothic soaked hotel called The Suites, gifted to Kid by his father, Big Daddy, and malevolently coveted by his sister (and sometime lover?), Rosebud.
Hannah has already covered some reasons for why you may want to pick this title up–  as if Peter Milligan’s writing and Tess Fowler’s magnificent art aren’t reasons enough–previously, focusing amongst other things on Kid as a very unreliable narrator. He can’t even believe his own eyes sometimes, so how can we? But, The Suites is steeped in gothic tradition that you may not pick up on given the hip vibe about the whole affair– and much of this aesthetic success must be shared with artist Tess Fowler–and the constant references to past masters; from Shakespeare to William Burroughs, with the latter’s ghost haunting this title from beyond the grave somewhat methinks.
The Suites is a far flung relative of the same Beat Hotel Burrough’s frequented in Paris and where he developed his non-linear, cut-up and remix style of narration that resulted in, arguably, his most recognised work, Naked Lunch, and it feels like his spirit now stalks the corridors of The Suites. It is also a hotel steeped in mystery, opacity and potential horrors lurking down below, like all good gothic dwellings such as The Castle of Otranto (recognised as the first Gothic novel way, way back in 1764), the more recognisable Carpathian castle of Dracula or even Stephen King’s infamous Outlook Hotel form The Shining.
Buildings that have their fair share of secrets and curses, just like this new inclusion too. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of styles–gothic, hallucinatory, beat-like–and makes for a read that may well require a second and third reading but possibly still with the same feeling of unease and discombobulation by the end of the first issue.

Fowler’s clean, crisp, sexy art is a great fit for Milligan’s brilliantly bizarro script and a joy to behold. Whether it’s depicting the beautiful shapeshifting hotel chambermaid, Ottla (and trust me, even her name has hidden meaning attached to it), or the parade of grotesques that seem to live in the hotel as though they ere a natural part of the furnishings, Fowler builds an environment that is, quite literally, Kafkaesque.

Yes there is a cliff hanger, encouraging you to go buy the second issue, but the hallucinatory, oppressive, nightmarish journey to get there is a ride in itself. It’s a comic that offers up a strange hero in Kid Lobotomy, that could challenge Milligan’s previous, equally strange and wonderful and achingly hip and happening characters such as Shade The Changing Man or even the characters that his earlier works introduced to the world such as Paradax, but it is also a comic that wears it’s literary influences on it’s sleeve, proudly.
A remix of music, Burroughs, Kafka and the odd throw away quote from King Lear too, makes for a read that does not treat its reader anything other than as an equal.
Kid Lobotomy then is like the proverbial onion; many layered but dipped in LSD.
Kid Lobotomy #1 is available now from Black Crown/IDW.

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