In Review: Lobster Johnson: Mangekyo

A psychological story featuring creepy visuals makes this one of the Lobster's more bizarre battles.

The cover: The Lotus opens her maw and the Lobster falls into it, unable to keep himself from being devoured by the supernatural being. This is only a tease from Tonci Zonjic of what’s to come within this one-shot Lobster adventure. The action on this cover does occur within and perfectly illustrates how this foe can destroy the hero. Overall grade: A

The story: “Upstate New York, Jefferson Correctional Facility. Autumn 1935.” Former spy Franz Schek is recognized by two inmates and they taunt him. “Treason, pops! They’ll fry you for that.” When one says he’s not going to be around much longer, the man looks at his watch and says, “Your are so right, young man. Quite soon, I will be a real goner.” Near the prison walls a Noh monkey carries another bundle of dynamite to a similar creature, adding to a growing pile. The pair scamper off to a dynamite plunger where a third waits. One of the beasts throws its full weight onto the device and they cower, covering their ears. There’s no explosion. Looking up they are confronted by Bob, the Lobster’s assistant. He says something that causes them to run off, right into the line of fire of another of the Lobster’s associates. The Lobster and his allies go into the woods to track down the surviving creature and the hero comes face to face with the Lotus. It’s at this point that writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have the hero venture into territory that seems far beyond his means to battle. The Lobster’s first reaction to the Lotus in the fourth panel on Page 7 is outstanding — Now that’s how a hero gets the job done! The action on the cover occurs on 12 and leads to a series of battles that may be real or occurring on another plane. Highlights include the shocking action on 11, the challenge on 13, and the surprise antagonist on 15. This surprise goes on for several pages and puts the Lobster through the wringer. The story bookends in the same location as the opening, ending with some justice and jackal-like behavior. This is a mind bending battle done right. Overall grade: A

The art: The opening page features Schek within the prison and it looks great. The carvings done into the table by the inmates is a subtle way to show that this is a facility for bad men. Schek looks great: his long forehead, jet black hair, and trim, tiny mustache help set the story in the appropriate time when his look was the trend. I don’t know what it is about animals, but any Mike Mignola comic that features animals in any way scare the heck out of me. Ben Stenbeck makes the Noh monkeys an absolute fright. Intelligent monkeys is one thing, but endowing them with those grinning faces is just flat out wrong. Watching the creatures deliver the dynamite and attempt to blow it up is creepy. The reveal in the final panel on Page 3 is terrific, and Stenbeck builds it further with a more violent reveal on 4. The action that occurs on that page and the first two panels of 5 is outstanding. I’m not a fan of violence done to animals, but those freaks have it coming in spades! The first full reveal of the Lobster comes at the bottom of Page 5 and he stands apart from his companions not only by his garb, but his stance; of all five characters, he is the one standing the tallest and the straightest. His journey through the woods is silent, save a few sounds, and Stenbeck does a good job in showing what the Lobster has to go through to find his prey. The Crimson Lotus is a deceptive villain who quickly transforms to the creature on the cover, mentally torturing the Lobster. The transition of scenes on 9 and 10 is really well done, again with little to no dialogue, depending wholly on Stenbeck to make the story frightening. 12 has a great fall that would make Will Eisner proud. The Noh monkeys return for the final battle with a friend and they are great. The visual freak factor that they bring to this conflict will live long in any reader’s memory. Thanks for the nightmares, Mr. Stenbeck. Overall grade: A

The colors: The first panel of this book, which shows the prison, looks like a hand tinted image due to the colors by Dave Stewart. The close-up of Schek at the bottom of the page gives the character some excellent shading to make him three dimensional, and the colors for the laughter behind him only accentuate the glaring paleness of his massive forehead. When one of the monkeys pushes down on the plunger, Stewart gives the reader a false sense of destruction by coloring the background in explosive yellows highlighted by orange. These two colors return on Page 5, but are now stark as gun play and violent actions occur. The trademark orange lenses on the Lobster’s goggles are throughout the issue, always drawing the reader’s attention to the hero. Black is used extensively for two scenes, allowing Stewart to play with other dark colors to intensify the Lotus’s threat. This darkness makes the lack of background colors for the final battle stronger, with the character’s demanding focus. When has Stewart done anything but an outstanding job? Overall grade: A

The letters: Clem Robins provides scene settings, dialogue, sounds, laughter, and yells. Robins’s work is also consistently good, with this issue employing him often to insert sound effects to increase the mood, such as when the Lobster goes into the woods, and to make each gunshot seem like a blast from Hell itself. There are several sounds that are stunning in the size and shape, and the Lotus’s dialogue demonically changes when she grows to gigantic proportions. Overall grade: A

The final line: The return of the Crimson Lotus has the Lobster fighting on several fronts in a race against time to stop a criminal from escaping jail. A psychological story featuring creepy visuals makes this one of the Lobster’s more bizarre battles. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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