Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Sebastian Fiumara
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse
Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1 is the latest comic starring Mike Mignola’s character who straddles the pulp crime and horror genres. In an ever-expanding universe of titles spun-off from Hellboy, it’s easy for some of the comics to fade into the background more than others. But reading Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1, I appreciate that Mignola, John Arcudi, and Sebastian Fiumara do their best to keep this comic memorable thanks to some particularly strong images that they’ve conjured up.
In many ways, Lobster Johnson reminds me of the pulp character of the Shadow, with several operatives that keep him informed while he explores a series of mysterious deaths. This time the deaths involve couriers for the Chinese organized crime group known as the Tong. But even as Lobster Johnson is exploring the killings—ones that the Tong themselves are failing to retaliate against—the police are trying to track down Lobster Johnson himself. And of course, the best way do to that is through his own people…
What’s nice about this latest Lobster Johnson comic is that it both builds on what’s been established up until now, but also works well as an issue #1 for new readers. When Cindy shows up, for example, you’re able to instantly pick up that she’s an investigative reporter who also has a connection to Lobster Johnson. Mignola and Arcudi do this not through exposition, but just through natural sounding dialogue and the basic structure of the scene. In a sea of comics that regularly have a new #1, it’s refreshing to have creators who understand that if there’s a #1 on the cover, the comic’s structure should be welcoming to new readers.
The plotting in Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1 is also worth noting as being strong. The story itself forms almost a sort of bell curve; it opens and closes with Lobster Johnson in action, bounding across rooftops and smashing into buildings. In the center, though, Lobster Johnson fades into the background and we get to see everything else swirling around and coming together. Lobster Johnson is in many ways a bookend, kicking things off and then coming back once all of the other plot elements are firmly cemented and have displayed themselves to the reader.
Fiumara’s art on the first three issues of Abe Sapien this year was simply amazing, and rest assured that he’s still just as good. The first three pages alone could be used in sequential art classes explaining how to tell a story. On the first page, Fiumara handles the slow theatrical zoom-in on Lobster Johnson perfectly; starting as a silhouette, then slowly pulling in closer, letting Lobster Johnson start running directly towards us as the "camera" tightens on his face. As he leaps to another building, Fiumara pulls off something especially impressive on the second and third pages. The second page is almost entirely one splash of what’s happening down in Chinatown, with a dragon parade crashing through the streets even as Lobster Johnson himself is just a tiny dot up at the top. At the same time, he gives us a small inset panel that shows Lobster Johnson plunging down… and when you turn the page, there’s a perfect drawing of his body connecting with the new roof. With the way that his body compacts doing so, you can almost feel the impact; there’s actually no need for the "whump" sound effect, really, because Fiumara’s drawn it so perfectly that you mentally insert the sound yourself.
It’s the end of the book where the art really starts cooking, though. Shooting someone in an alleyway and jumping through a burning mansion, the action is even faster moving and more energetic than those first three pages. Fiumara’s collaboration here with colorist Dave Stewart is especially impressive; the flames almost lick your hands from the page, with a soft texture and glow that comes from the duo working well together. And then, when you get to the last page, Fiumara brings Mignola and Arcudi’s creepy idea to life in a way that makes you jump. Both the contented smile of the central figure, and the disturbing creatures running around it as the fire continues to burn… well, this is a way to have all of the creators of a comic work well together to present a strong cliffhanger to make sure readers return next month.
With so many comics in the "Mignolaverse," it would be easy to let some pass by and to pick and choose among which of the Mignola-helmed comics you choose to read. With books like Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1, Mignola, Arcudi, Fiumara, and Stewart make it hard to decide to skip it. This is an excellent comic, and one that fulfils a niche that few other comics explore. Good stuff.