Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lobster Johnson and the Burning Hand TPB

Man, I simply can’t believe the batting average that Mike Mignola has going in his Hellboy universe. Lobster Johnson has gone from oddball, ghostly guest-star to headlining his own mini-series. And he belongs here! Even with the very minimal details we get on the guy, there plot and conflicts are strong enough to make this a thrilling read. Factor in the amazing art from Tonci Zonjic, and this is another thrilling collection.

I’m not sure how the work is divided up between Mignola and John Arcudi, but I love the tiny bits of background we get in this one. We know the Black Flame pretty well, but I certainly never expected to see him used as a mob enforcer. I suppose that’s only fair, though, because Lobster Johnson seems to have some amazing abilities going on too.

That brings up an interesting point, though. We know nothing about the man behind the mask, including his abilities. He seems to rely on his network of operatives, each one filling a required niche or sidekick stereotype. (It’s a good thing Lobster has so many; vigilanty-ing is a dangerous business!) Does Lobster actually get hit with all those bullets? Is he wearing a vest? Is he supernaturally protected? I literally have no idea, and it doesn’t even matter.

Even with the vaguely-defined powers he exhibits, Lobster has a real challenge on his hands. Gangsters with guns, strange foreign assassins, and basements full of zombies make for some good antagonists. Heck, the book opens with glowing Indians scalping policeman! As I read through one great set piece after another, I thought what a great movie this would make. Whoever scripted this thing really lays down a great rising action and climax. The world seems like a great place to visit too, complete with dynamic dames and plucky local cops.

The whole thing wouldn’t be quite as wonderful without Zonjic’s art. He’s got a really simple, almost animated-looking style. The details are fantastic (I loved reading the bonus materials to see him updating the look of Lobster’s gun for accuracy.) I’d absolutely love to buy a page from this series, but I don’t think I can afford it. That page where Lobster goes into the wrong basement? That ranks as one of my favorite scenes in a long time.


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