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Review Brew: Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged In Life

Writers: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi

Artists: Troy Nixey & Kevin Nowlan

Colorist: Dave Stewart

 

As I try to fill the enormous gaps in my reading coming into comics not too terribly long ago, one of the “universes” I am looking to really dive into is the so called “Mignola-verse”. With that, I decided this week to check out Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged In Life. Having zero experience with the character, I was excited at the prospect of discovering a new title to follow, and I was certainly not disappointed.

When it comes to stories in this universe, I’m curious as to how the writing duties are split, as Mike Mignola is always listed as one of the writers, or, in this and many cases, “story by”. Knowing John Arcudi’s work from B.P.R.D. (where I believe Mignola guides the plot, but not sure his role in scripting that title), as well as being familiar with Mignola, I feel like I hear their voice throughout this book. It goes to show how strong they are as a team, in that the story is cohesive, easy to follow, and engaging, when the script of story is coming from the mind of these two (as well as the artists, I don’t want to short change anyone). Here, we get a wonderfully told story of a Salvation Army like Santa, collecting toys at Christmas time in front of a department store. When he gets ready to pack it in for the night, he witnesses a robbery, and is taken hostage by a group of crooks. Unfortunately for them, the “Vigilant Vigilante” is on their tail, and he never loses his man. This story is a classic, pulp like story we would see from characters like The Shadow, but told from the point of view of a bystander a la Astro City. While this type of tale has been told, this is incredibly strong work from Arcudi and Mignola. The World built in the dialogue alone took me to a different time and place, transfixing me to the story. I would’ve loved to see some more Lobster Johnson in it, but with a story like this, I’m not terribly upset with what we got. Arcudi and Mignola craft this story around almost the myth of Lobster Johnson. Even when the robbers seem clear, Lobster’s presence hangs like an aura around them. I love how the two writers seemingly use this book to show their love for pulp stories, showing a study of the genre as well as adding to it.

The art in this book is bookended with pages by the great Kevin Nowlan. Instantly sending us into the pulp world we need to be in for this story. He has a clean, almost Rockwell inspired line and is a master of facial expressions. When getting into the meat of the story, we move seamlessly into Troy Nixey art. While different from Nowlan, it’s not jarring, and it’s a perfect fit all it’s own. While the linework is clean and deliberate, Nixey is a master of highlight and shadow. For pulp and noir stories, lighting can make or break you, and Nixey firmly MAKES the story with it here. It certainly helps that one of the greatest colorist of all time, Dave Stewart, masterfully adds colors to this world, really nailing the highlighting perfectly. Between these two, this book is a masterclass on lighting and establishing a world. On top of that, I love what Nixey does with the characters heads and faces. Everyone has a long and fairly ugly face, but still look human. It makes these characters almost like caricatures over actual people, very much in the camp of famous comic strips like Dick Tracy.

This is a very fun read, and if you’re a fan of pulp stories, you need to pick this up. Fitting in perfectly in the “Mignola-verse”, I would put this up there with an issue of BPRD or Hellboy anyday.

 

4.5 presents out of 5

About Brett I (152 Articles)
Born in Philadelphia and currently residing in Portland OR, Brett has been reading and collecting comics in some capacity since 2008 and is now fully immersed. Also, Brett is an avid follower of Professional Wrestling since the crumbling of The Alliance. Philadelphia/Chicago Sports consumed here.
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