In Review: Lobster Johnson: The Pirate’s Ghost #1

The mob! Mystery! Action! Drama! The supernatural! Where else could you find this but in Lobster Johnson!

The cover: Like the cover of classic pulp held together by tape, Tonci Zonjic has created a frontpiece that shows all the players from this newest Lobster adventure. On the left in crimson are Wald, Bagha Yai, the Steel Hawk, Payne, and Cindy. On the right in the same colors are the Lobster, Bill, Robert, Lester, and Harry. Between these faces is a beautiful, though weather beaten, pirate ship. I love how Zonjic makes this new illustration look aged. Overall grade: A

The story: There’s much going on in this first issue, but it’s completely accessible to new readers. Harry McTell, his shirt ripped, uses his fists to take down the men who’ve been working him over the past three days. Just as he thinks that he’s defeated all of his foes, Bagha Yai appears behind him, with two crocodiles in tow, both snapping to taste his flesh. The Lobster bursts through the partition behind Harry, gun blazing, yelling, “Feel the burning sting of justice!” The three antagonists dead, Harry’s flashback ends and transitions to the present, where Harry and Cindy have left a movie. He says the Lobster fought the reptiles better than how the lead did in the film they just saw. Cindy, not finding his tale funny, says that they have to talk. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Lobster Johnson sits outside a darkened home, waiting for a report from Lester and Robert. The home belonged to the late Mrs. Arnie Wald. They’ve been casing the house for three days to find out where mob boss Wald is, but no one has come by the place. They do have a photograph of the deed and the Lobster wants to use it to find Wald. And where is Wald? Page 5 has him in the last possible place one could imagine. This story by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi sets up the characters for readers, showing them to be driven to their goals or lost in their fantasies. Where Wald is hiding from the Lobster was great, and I like that it was Mr. Isog that returned him to reality. The item that Wald is holding may be the driving force for this issue’s supernatural protagonist. Cindy and Harry have a solid talk about the future, but, naturally it’s interrupted by something that could give the city troubles. The interrogation on 18 and 19 is great and completely in line with a pulp hero’s actions. The cliffhanger on 22 is plenty to keep readers pondering how that character is going to get out of that predicament. Overall grade: A

The art: The first two pages that recount a previous Lobster outing marvelously capture the look of a classic movie serial, which is completely appropriate given the change of setting on Page 3. On this page, Tonci Zonjic captures the time period of the 1930s with the architecture and the characters’ clothes. However, Zonjic is also telling the story with the characters’ reactions: take note of how the reader can tell that Harry is put on his toes by how he looks in the third panel, and the worry on Cindy is easily felt because of the concern she shows in the final panel. The dramatic shift in this pair’s tale intensifies with a turn of the page and a dramatic shot of the Lobster focused on his task in a horizontal panel. The four pages that follow this go into territory never seen before in a Lobster book and they look amazing. The look of these pages does the memory of Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels, and Bernard Krigstein proud. Had the remainder of the issue continued in this theme, I would have been more than ecstatic to read it. Page 9 is a return to reality with a gorgeous, albeit desolate, locale, featuring the return of one of comics’ more ominous henchmen. 10 and 11 returns to Cindy and Harry, with the tension building in a wonderfully awkward way for the first three panels. The gesture made in the second and third panels on 11 provides much emotional punch to the dialogue. The build up to the reveal of the supernatural foe is nicely built with Cindy’s reactions, which lead to the character’s first appearance, which — interestingly — mirrors the same panel shape and size as the Lobster’s present day reveal. My favorite pages are 18 and 19 because the energy and emotion coming off of them is incredible. One large double-paged panel shows the Lobster’s dramatic entrance, with several small panels featuring close ups of the conversation. I love them! The final page has much backstory revealed in the characters’ faces, with one very smug at the issue’s outcome, while another is resolved. Such beautiful work! The colors on this book are also done by Zonjic with dark oranges used for much of the coloring for the two page flashback. These colors provide a smooth transition to the present as Harry and Cindy walk down a street. The most natural coloring of the book comes on Pages 5 – 8, with some outstanding smoke effects done with the colors. The arrival of the pirate ship has coloring that resembles fog, making the reader peer deeper into the panels to see what slight variations in color can reveal. The ghastly green used for the supernatural villain is terrific and I hope to see more of that color in future issues. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Dialogue, yells, sounds, and the pleas of the guilty are created by Clem Robins. The variations in font make characters’ yells and pleas sound perfect, and the sounds reverberate off the page. All that’s missing is a soundtrack on Pages 5 – 8. Overall grade: A 

The final line: The mob! Mystery! Action! Drama! The supernatural! Where else could you find this but in Lobster Johnson! Recommended! 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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