Lobster Johnson Omnibus Vol. 1

Lobster Johnson Omnibus Vol. 1
Lobster Johnson Omnibus Vol. 1 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50672-639-7
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781506726397
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Mike Mignola’s introduction tells how the Lobster Johnson name just popped into his head one morning, and why this collection doesn’t take the easy path by reprinting the first three Lobster Johnson paperbacks, leaving the remaining three paperbacks for Vol. 2. It’s apparently to do with chronology, but that shouldn’t matter in the slightest to anyone as Lobster Johnson’s success isn’t down to a tight watch kept on the dates allocated to his stories, but on the pulp action as Lobster punches and shoots his way through a succession of supernatural threats. That’s all contrived by the dream team of Mignola and John Arcudi.

What we have here is available in paperback as two five-chapter thrillers The Burning Hand (or latterly Hellboy Universe Presents Lobster Johnson), and Get the Lobster!, and the five short stories collected in Satan Smells a Rat!

It starts, though, with Tonči Zonjić’s solo story ‘The Empty Chair’, a bonus not previously found in the paperbacks. The title refers to an empty chair at a table where gangsters meet, maintained out of respect for a dead colleague who once sat there. However, a pushy new hood is gunning for a place at the table, so how to get rid of him? The solution kills two birds with one stone, but as always, thoroughly underestimates Lobster and his organisation.

Zonjić is the artistic standout, also drawing the two longer stories. He’s utterly convincing when it comes to the 1930s locations and technology, and positively relishes cameos from the film stars of the time. The process material at the back, well over fifty pages of it, proves Zonjić’s dedication via design sketches and his taking the trouble to map out an entire warehouse so that when it appears in the story the action runs smoothly from place to place. Every page he draws here has quality guaranteed. That actually also applies to the artists working on the shorter stories. Kevin Nowlan is always a delight, and in any other company Sebastián Fiumara or Joe Querio would be the star turns. As most artists opt for noir realism, Wilfredo Torres using cartooning on ‘The Prayer of Neferu’ is a surprising delight.

On this evidence Lobster’s strength is the longer serialised story, as the shorts are fun, but never quite as thrilling. ‘The Burning Hand’ begins with scalpings and native Americans rampaging through the night streets of New York in 1937. There’s a plucky journalist in danger, a gang war, a rare gangster who’s escaped Lobster’s usually final form of justice and two imported threats whose abilities are beyond what’s known to most men of the time. ‘Get the Lobster!’ is in some ways a continuation, but smartly incorporates several items introduced in the shorter stories. Public opinion is manipulated by the police to turn them against Lobster, highlighting his brutality. “Simply put, we will bring an end to this reign of terror in short order” promises a police spokesman on a radio broadcast. Not used to being the target, Lobster has to be at his most resourceful to evade capture.

Both longer stories are taut period dramas making the most of the seedy areas criminals occupy, and therefore by extension those where Lobster can be found. This is thrilling pulp adventure, and you’ll feel soiled for dabbling in it!