Luda marks the debut novel from famed comic writer Grant Morrison. Their comic work has helped inform the modern perspective on superheroes and added to the mythos of just about every popular character. After a hiatus from monthly comics, fans such as myself awaited what would come next for the writer. Turns out it’s a novel whose inside cover pitch promises an intriguing mixture of drag queens and magical arts. Not my usual cup of tea, but my personal fandom of Morrison’s work enticed me to check it out.
The story is told from the first person point of view of one Luci LaBang. Luci is an aging drag star doing their best to rekindle their youthful spark in a performance of the “Phantom of the Pantomime”, one part Phantom of the Opera and one part Aladdin that’s a proven success in the drag scene. With a lead role suddenly opened due to an accident, the titular Luda enters. As young up-and-comer in the drag-scene with a devious allure, Luci becomes enthralled with Luda and her aspirations to “learn to disappear.” A mentor/mentee relationship rapidly forms between the two, and Luci begins teaching Luda the ins and outs of drag and hints at a deeper power lurking beneath it all.
We get to know the world and its colorful characters through Luci’s stream-of-consciousness thoughts that drive each page. This instantly locks into our protagonist’s view, for better and worse. Luci’s internal monologue propels the story forward and the creativity of their wandering mind speaks to a well developed character, but these verbose tangents range from wickedly witty to overstuffed word play. As a Morrison fan, I’m used to their densely detailed language but the constant barrage bogs down the reading experience. For some, these asides might hit every time, but for me they quickly became diminishing returns.
To the point I’ve read so far, Luda is fulfilling on its conceptual promise but the writing style just isn’t working for me as well. It certainly provides an absurd and unique reading experience unlike typical prose, which might be enough for readers wanting something far out there. For me though, my initial enthusiasm has diminished and I find myself struggling to go back to it.
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