Review: Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat (One-Shot)

Here’s something that’s kind of embarrassing: I have never read a full issue of Hellboy, B.P.R.D. or anything else written within the Mike Mignola-verse, up to and including Lobster Johnson. That’s right, a dude named “Lobster Johnson” is popping my cherry. Oh my god, you guys, dreams DO come true! But seriously, it is pretty scoundrelly that I haven’t yet picked up anything within this expansive family of books, but in my defense, it’s one of those that has a history which is almost toorich. I’ve always wondered where to start ... well, other than “at the beginning,” but that takes a lot of time and a modicum of effort; not to mention a fair few wampum. Still, it was inevitable that I would cut my teeth on this universe at some point.

So, when I saw this week that Lobster Johnson (whose name, in my lysdexia, I always want to write as Robster Lohnson) was up for grabs, I decided it was time to take Dustin’s advice, take shit by the horns and jump aboard the Mignola train, mid-chug. And you know what? I’m glad I did. I should interject here, before we go forward and for the sake of clarity, that my shit doesn’t actually have horns.

Lobster Johnson Satan Smells a Rat CoverI really like this Lobster Johnson fella. He’s got the kind of stone-faced, hardboiled pulp gristle and shoot-first-ask-questions-later spunk I like to see in my depression-era adventurers. Now, again, I’m basing my judgement on this guy off of this one comic, so I have no idea whether this is true or not, but he seems like a pretty static character, motivated by a strict moral code that is set in stone, not beleaguered with anything so effeminate as “grey areas.”

I also appreciate the considerable lengths of mind-fuckery he is willing to go to in order to psyche out what turns out to be a very naughty man, by packing this semi-professional body mover’s car with a fine assortment of his greatest hits, which Lobster took the time to dig up for him. Finally, there’s the fact that he leaves his mushroom print on his victims’ foreheads in the form of lobster claw brands. Now that’s marking your territory!

To write a character like this well, you’ve got to write him sparingly, and that’s just what Mignola and Arcudi do here; he’s a stone-cold sonuvabitch who neither takes nor gives guff. Interestingly, that makes him the unflappable force of nature in this story, around which the more “morally flexible” personalities of his villains are given greater room to maneuver.

They actually represent the humanity of the story, albeit a misguided one, particularly in the desperation of crippled financier and model town enthusiast, Mr. Podell, and in the scientific thirst for knowledge from his second in command and attending physician, Dr. Andres. It’s equally fun and frustrating to watch the villains’ cold but valid arguments crash against Lobster’s unmovable wall of white-hot justice!

While it didn’t really grasp me during my first read, the art in this book from Kevin Nowlan struck me as pretty damn good on subsequent flip-throughs. He’s definitely working to the less-detailed Mignola rubric, and while it couldn’t be called intricate, it does a great job of hosting this intimate story.

With things like the end of prohibition and genetically-modified human vegetables afoot, this story of Lobster Johnson (whose name, in a rare yet welcome move, beautifully melds the worlds of crustacean sea-life and male adult film stars) has officially opened up the world for me. I’m not saying this is the ideal place to jump into bed with Mignola,  but even this, the 13th part of a series, offers a good enough first bite of Lobster to tempt me for more.

Score: 3/5

Writers: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi Artist: Kevin Nowlan Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 5/22/13