Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Tess Fowler & Lee Loughridge
Published by: IDW
From the beginning, Kid Lobotomy has dealt with issues of abuse and mental health. With issue #4, Peter Milligan fully removes what remains of the gloves he had on. Rather than picking up from the last issue’s cliffhanger, Milligan uses this issue to jump back in time and further develop Ottla’s character.
Unlike the first three issues, what happens in the pages of issue #4 is clear. The oddball, Morrison-esque elements that initially made Kid Lobotomy so interesting are present but toned down (the last couple pages aside). The pacing, too, is slowed down from the breakneck speed of the first few issues. It’s a brilliant story telling move, a subtle form of characterization as the focus shifts off Kid and to Ottla.
The information dump (which is essentially what this issue is) also feels earned, at this point. The first major plot point was reached in the last issue, and now is an appropriate time to pull back and give some amount of background. And the background we get here is essential to advancing the themes of Kid Lobotomy, and to understanding the actions of the characters.
At times, it’s hard to read, and honestly should probably come with some sort of content warning for assault/harassment. Kid Lobotomy addresses the issue aggressively, demonstrating with painful accuracy the reality many people, women especially, are forced to exist in. Importantly, the toll it takes on victims is demonstrated alongside the abuse itself.
Visually, this issue is some of Tess Fowler’s finest work. Rather than juxtaposing her cartoonish style with dark subject matter, she leans into, casting characters as the malicious monsters and downtrodden victims they are. For as good as Milligan’s writing is, it wouldn’t work without Fowler making the characters feel alive, using body language and expressions.
The task of injecting some amount of levity into the issue falls largely on Fowler, and, unsurprisingly, she comes through. The book has another of visual gags – a sequence of panels late in the issue pokes fun at the events. Rather than undercutting heavy thematic elements, the humor serves to defuse tension and make the issue a little easier to get through.
Of course, I would be remiss to go on about the art without mentioning Lee Loughridge’s colors. His color pallet is exceptionally muted, making the book feel even grimier than it otherwise would. Even the panels with pinks, reds, and greens – otherwise vibrant colors – are toned down. It’s a dour affair and fits the subject matter to a tee.
I’ve been a proponent of Kid Lobotomy from the start, and issue #4 keeps the level of quality high. It’s a little slower and less out there than previous issues but justifies both. Milligan, Fowler, and Loughridge are doing excellent work, and Kid Lobotomy remains one of the best, most interesting books on the stands.