You do not need to know a thing about Lobster Johnson, or the “Mignolaverse,” to understand and thoroughly enjoy this comic. You can pick this one without any prior knowledge and not feel lost at all. It’s important to state that about these books because people feel the history of Hellboy’s world is too deep and storied to jump in now. I cry foul and say that with quality this good you should definitely be supporting this book. All it will do is make you want to track down more previous volumes. Havng more quality material to buy is not a bad problem for any reader to have.
“Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand” is a pulp story of the highest order. Set in 1932, we get all the finest tropes from the oldest talkies but not as much of the cliché. There are fedoras and dames and fast talking journalists, but there are also scalped police officers hanging from street poles and our beshadowed and intrepid lead. He’s a leather clad hero who shows no fear and generally acts like the best old serial heroes. He isn’t the man who carries the story with his words; he just forces the narrative into darker places with his actions.
The main threat of this issue -- local hoods dressing up as Indian ghosts and scaring locals -- would feel like a “Scooby Doo” menace were it not for the serious tone placed over the action. This isn’t a gag and people are dying amidst the bullets and blades. Cindy Tynan, wordsmith for the Herald Tribune, is on the story and her digging starts to unearth a sordid conspiracy. This introduction is just the tip of the iceberg and we’re left with a cliffhanger ending that will lead into more mayhem next month.
Tonci Zonjic turned eyes this past year with his superlative work on “Who Is Jake Ellis?” This book will help you further understand what a true talent he is. His style is perfect to simulate the old newspaper serials in tone and dynamic action. In a genre nearly defined by Sean Phillips’ work over the past decade, Zonjic keeps up with the pace and holds his own. The smooth lines and old timey feel made me think of “Frank Kafka,” the newspaper comic strip featured in “Criminal.” This is a perfect alignment of artist with project.
Crime comics have shown a continual upward trend over the past decade. This genre has also shown how malleable it is by pairing with straight up noir, superheroes, monsters and wisecracking spies. At its heart, though, a good crime comic needs a solid crime to investigate and a hero you think will get the job done. Cindy Tynan is captivating on all her pages and Lobster Johnson seems like the sort of deus ex machina hero who will watch and wait and provide the necessary thrills to justify every cent spent on this comic. Old and new alike, step up to “Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand” and enjoy yourself.