Get the Lobster is, like its titular character, swift, brutal, and haunting. And super awesome. There will be a point in this review where I switch into spoiler mode because we all know that's more fun for everyone. If you're terrified of scrolling, Get the Lobster gets a 5/5 and is one of my favorite stories of the year.
It's been two years since we got a collected, contiguous Lobster Johnson story, with the collection earlier this year only gathering together a bunch of one-shots and much shorter miniseries. Lobster Johnson Volume 4: Get the Lobster is five issues of Hellboy universe ass-kicking esoteric mechanical weirdness, and it never ceases to shock me the number of people Mignola can appeal to with this world he's created.
First of all, the 1930's New York aesthetic is fantastic. Sometimes I wonder if it's overdone, but then I read a good story with good-ol'-fashioned mobsters and gritty crime fighters and I immediately revert into fanboy mode. If you're not familiar with The Lobster, it won’t take long to get to know him and his passion for branding bad guys. At first, he'll strike you as a one-dimensional vigilante with even fewer reservations than some more well-known masked anti-heroes. But then you'll realize all of the people helping him out, all of his willing subordinates calling him "boss," and the fact that even his greatest critics can't help but look on in awe when he does his thing.
Let's talk about the art and colors on this title, because they are top-fucking-notch. Tonci Zonjic was born to draw The Lobster, and if you told me that he was going to draw absolutely anything from this time period or in the Hellboy universe then I would make it rain one dollar bills all up in my local comic shop and then sprint out the door with the book he drew. Of course, Dave Stewart is on the colors, and there is a reason the dude has eight fucking Eisners: he is DAMN good at coloring a comic. Every scene has the perfect colors for the tone and the setting; it's just a wonderful book to look at in every way.
One of my big metrics for measuring certain sets of stories is whether or not the average reader could pick it up and know what the hell is going on. I can say, quite confidently, that even though having prior knowledge of The Lobster or the Hellboy universe in general would enhance the experience, you can enjoy this book without any previous exposure. If you don't believe me, go into your local comic shop when this book comes out, open it up, and skim the first few pages (or avail yourself of the preview function on Dark Horse’s website). If that doesn't sell you on a book worth reading, go buy an issue of My Little Pony or something.
THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD
Criticizing the way in which a police force operates is a timeless topic, but it's more salient now than it has been in a long time. There is a scene in which The Lobster uses a hand grenade to take down a particularly monstrous opponent, even though he is surrounded by law enforcement and could possibly maim or kill someone who is innocent. The chief of police is later shown to be irate, playing the cliché but vital role as the figure who is as interested in justice as the masked crusader, but thinks that we should play by the book; especially when it comes to the use of hand grenades.
Later on, in what made for a chilling scene, this same chief of police begins lobbing hand grenades into a deserted building which contains only The Lobster in order to make sure that he gets his man. One of his subordinate officers remarks to him about the brutal irony of his current actions in light of comments made earlier, but he has resolved to get The Lobster. It is later revealed that the chief of police was actually under radio control, like the other minor villains in the plot.
I found this revelation even more disturbing than the scene itself.
A man who has committed his life to justice was only able to err and disgrace his badge because he had been manipulated with radio controls. Sure, it works for this plot, but a moment which once seemed like a principled indictment of police brutality in any form became trivialized and explained away with remote control car parts. It's no fault of the script, but I just could not strip away the lens through which I was forced to read the story with all that has happened in the past year. I suppose the writers still provided us with a narrative from which we can take a lesson once we step back: the only excuse for the tragic, merciless irony of the violence of a police force against its citizens is for a super villain to be pulling the strings. No other excuse is acceptable.
Or, at least, no other excuse should be acceptable. Right?
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi Artist: Tonci Zonjic Colorist: Dave Stewart Price: $19.99 Release Date: 12/17/14 Format: TPB; Print/Digital