For The Comics Journal a review of Grant Morrison’s novel Luda, about a Scottish pantomime dame tipped into a camp psychodrama and war with their metaphysical counterpart. Widow Twankey swept up in Tarot Tartan Noir. “Is this mind control erotica or a horror story?” muses a character, very reasonably.
It was hard to tell in advance how smoothly or otherwise a Morrison prose novel would work. Morrison’s comics are intensely “written,” but by a mind plugged into the visual sorcery of the drawings rather than the text. The images being conjured dance before Morrison’s eyes but the author doesn’t swim in the deep oceans of the words themselves like Alan Moore does; which might be why Luda clocks in at 450 pages of brisk catty first-person narration rather than the 1200 pages of God’s-eye-view that Moore’s Jerusalem did. Moore’s language roamed across all of time and space, while Morrison’s is the same conspiratorial kitchen-sink chat from the author’s Supergods book, or for that matter the old Vertigo comics letters pages.
There’s a lot in those 450 pages though, a swirl of camp noir menace and in-jokes and film references and British horror, built around Morrison’s earnest belief that binary categories in gender or anywhere else are endless trouble and everybody should just get along. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. The novel’s ambiguity about its level of ambiguity will drive a few readers up the wall; a conciliatory approach to culture wars might not please a few more. Some of it made me think of golden-age BBC fiction of the 1970s, even before Morrison made a direct gesture towards BBC non-fiction of the 1970s by half-quoting The Ascent of Man. Grant Morrison and I are around the same age and grew up on the same island and it seems none of us has forgotten Jacob Bronowski making a plea for tolerance while up to his ankles in an Auschwitz pond.