Kid Lobotomy Melds Punk Rock and Comics
Kid Lobotomy #1 jumps headfirst into the Black Crown aesthetic- a signature punk rock style that is sure to define this line of new comics, brought to life by the infamous and incredible Shelly Bond. With the recent success of DC’s Young Animal (which Bond had her talons in, as well), the resurgence of Vertigo Comics, and Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint, helmed by Karen Berger, the face of comics is changing. This change is simultaneously introducing something brand new to the current comics market, and threading tendrils of the comics industry’s past into a creative environment that favors the editor. Editors have been pushed into the background in recent years as comics change pace and find new markets, but these signature imprints and the impeccable taste of Black Crown are proof that skilled, strong editors are an essential component of the creative process. Editors mix tastes and creates flavors, and the flavor of Black Crown is dark, sickly sweet, and instantly addicting.
Shelly Bond is not just creating an imprint or a line of comics, but also changing the way creative teams are matched. Just as the role of the editor is being drawn from the past, when creating cohesive lines of comics and incubating new talent was an integral part of the industry, the creative teams for Black Crown pull from the past and the present as well.
Peter Milligan, an iconic comics presence from Bond’s days on Shade the Changing Man, is paired with Tess Fowler, an artist set on pushing the boundaries of current comics. This seemingly mismatched pair is the secret to Black Crown’s success, as Milligan mentors, Fowler and Tess throw a wrench in how comics are “supposed” to work. The intricacies of Kid Lobotomy would not be successful without the interplay of the creative team, which is a credit to the skill-sets of Milligan and Fowler, but also to Bond, who is curating a line of comics and a line of creators that can change the face of the industry and how comics function.
Kid Lobotomy is simultaneously like nothing I have seen before, and hauntingly familiar. The pulls from classic punk comics are Milligan’s doing, and it is successful overall. Unfortunately, the set up for this series does not achieve the shock and intrigue its attempting. The story of a stilted, tortured musician tossing his guitar away in favor of the harp and harping on Kafka seems overwrought, like the story is trying too hard to push the envelope, and ends up sealing itself safely inside, instead.
The taboos of mental illness and incest take up so much of the focus, without developing any weight within the context of the plot, that the attempt to make this comic seem intense, innovative, and shocking falls flat. Ten or twenty years ago, when Milligan was creating subversive masterpieces in comics, this might have made more of an impact, but in today’s comics market, which is more diverse and accessible, these themes don’t carry the same impact that they might have before. Though Milligan’s storytelling is masterful and strange, which is a great fit for Kid Lobotomy, the more shocking elements feel forced and recycled.
The hints at the supernatural, Kid’s language, and the flavor of the story is creative and nuanced, but the course of this issue often pushes those strong elements aside in favor of another awkward sex scene with Kid’s sister, or a flashback to Kid’s rock band days, which both feel overused, The way this introductory issue handles the stigma of mental illness is grating and feels somewhat dated. Hopefully, that is resolved within the plot in future issues, instead of becoming an oversight. With the way this initial issue jumps around and focuses on a handful of shock-value plot points, there just isn’t enough meat to fill it out. The hope is that in future issues, Milligan delves more into the supernatural and psychological elements of the story, and adds flesh to the themes instead of hoping for shock value that doesn’t quite deliver.
What saves this book is Tess Fowler’s art. Without her intricate panels, phenomenal character representation, and dynamic edge, there would be no indication of the scope Kid Lobotomy has the potential to introduce in future issues. Each panel holds secrets, seeping from the walls and floorboards of The Suites. I want to know more about these characters, these creatures, these monsters. Without Fowler’s art pushing the plot forward and deepening the meaning behind Milligan’s jumpy, confusing introduction, the nuances and depth of Kid’s world would be lost. Tess pushes boundaries in comics, not only in her art but in her personality. She has consistently been on the forefront of representation and fair treatment within the industry, and this is a fire she brings to this book. Fowler elevates this somewhat over-wrought script in a new, modern light that feels fresh and dangerous.
Kid himself is an enigma. He is everything I want from a tortured, creepy, supernatural punk kid, and more. The interspersed Kafka-isms, surgical elements, and mental anguish builds Kid into a complex, interesting character. At this point, Kid could go in any direction and it would be interesting, but I hope he delves deeper into the bowels and caverns of The Suites, rather than further into his own sexual escapades and confusions.
As a whole, I have no idea what Kid Lobotomy is, or what it will become, but that is not necessarily a problem. Kid Lobotomy, at this point, has endless potential. It is building up to be a punk rock opera of epic proportions, and whatever direction it takes, it is sure to be wonderful and strange. This introductory issue, though a bit convoluted and unstructured, opens up a myriad of possibilities for the direction of the series. Kid is taking us on a tangled, terrifying journey through his own mind, and a strange world.
I can’t wait to see more.
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