In Review: Lobster Johnson: Metal Monsters of Midtown #1

Action and thrills gorgeously set in the 1930s.

The cover: Lobster Johnson is running for his life down one of the many streets of Midtown because he’s being pursued by a metal monster. A four story robot unlike any seen before in any comics is pounding after the masked hero, kicking up a mountain of dust as each of its fists/feet slams down on the pavement. This looks just like a comic from the 1940s, but it’s an absolutely new creation from interior artist Tonci Zonjic. This would be outstanding as a poster or print. Overall grade: A

The story: Manhattan. May 17, 1946. Radio broadcaster Cindy Tynan is describing for her listeners the chaos before her. “One of the machines is lifting a police car off the ground as easily as a man would a child! It’s still not easy to determine what their intent might be, but the two machines — the robots — are some thirty yards away in front of the Watts Savings Bank at Thrity-fifth and Dyer, and they haven’t moved since we’ve arrived.” The man who’s accompanied Cindy to the scene says he’s stopping the broadcast, things have gotten too dangerous. That’s when one of the robots throws a car, causing him to leave while Cindy stays put to continue her play by play. A huge sounds bellows behind her and a robot explodes. She and the police look to the top of a building to see the Lobster holding something resembling a grenade launcher. When the smoke clears the unthinkable has happened: “The explosion didn’t even scratch them!…They’re just standing there! Standing still as statues!” That’s when a third robot explodes out of the bank. The action that follows is intense, with the Lobster trying to fell the creatures while Cindy continues to report. Though there’s a brief move to an exotic looking woman listening at home who will do something very important before this issue is over. Fighting robots, this tall, is no easy task for the Lobster and he does not emerge from this battle unscathed. Having the Lobster fight such machinations is thrilling stuff, but then all the Lobster’s adventures always are from writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. After the opening, the Lobster’s operatives gather to figure out who is responsible for the metal monsters and how they can be defeated. A thread seems to lead to Zinco Enterprises, whose name is enough to cause dread for those reading any of the adventures of the B.R.P.D. The Lobster goes to investigate, and that’s when Mrs. Aliyev, the exotic woman from earlier in the story reappears with a mission to accomplish. Great reading and great action that harkens back to the classic adventure of the Golden Age. Overall grade: A+

The art: Tonci Zonjic is the perfect artist to illustrate the Lobster. The opening page has four panels that deftly tell the story regardless of the text (though I would recommend reading the text…): the first panel introduces one of the robots being fired upon, the second shows who’s shooting at the monster, the third shows the monster’s reaction, and the fourth shows the strength of the robot and introduces Miss Tynan. The second page fully reveals the creatures and their size to the humans. The final panel on Page 3 is as classic an image as one can create for a comic book and I loved it. The Lobster’s introduction in a thin vertical panel that bleeds off both ends of the page shows how high up the hero is. The design of the robots is excellent; they look like something that someone could have dreamed up at the time and, somewhat frighteningly, look as though they could actually function — the piston arms and legs are a fantastic touch! The third panel on Page 6 looks luxurious and serves as a good, quick way to introduce Mrs. Aliyev. The interiors of the repair shop are wonderful, full of all the right items to set the scene and outstanding lighting effects. The arrival on 14 is the stuff of classic films and having the characters in silhouette only reinforces the hour. The point of view shot at the bottom of 15 is fantastic, with it being a perfect match for the text. The action that follows outdoes the opening pages, with 18 having a sensational jaw-dropping moment that is told only in visuals. The leaping figure in the second panel on the following page is exceptional: the only thing missing from these pages is music. The final page contains only two sounds but expertly makes a connection between two locations. Hooray for the Lobster and hooray for Tonci! Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: In addition to the outstanding visuals, the colors by Dave Stewart set the story in the 1930s. Only explosions and sounds have bright colors. All else in this book has a muted color scheme, as if one were looking at photographs or a film aged from that time. Stewart makes the entire issue seem more real, like an artifact form the past. The muted browns, oranges, and peaches on the people in the opening pages set the book in the evening and in the past. When something blows up, and that happens often, it’s an explosion of yellow and orange. The shine of the robots’ metal parts is done by expertly blending different colors of gray onto the machines. Having their brain-lights done in bright yellow is an outstanding way to show when the beasts are active. The coloring of the repair shop and the Lobster’s headquarters is outstanding. Stewart continues to show he’s a talent. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Also a major talent is Clem Robins, who creates dialogue, scene settings, sounds, and yells for this book. This may seem like the basics of any comic book, but look at how well he does them: the bottom panel of Page 3 has three characters yelling at each other, but notice that for each exclamation there’s a different mixing of fonts. The first bit of text on 4 explodes joyously off the page as it would for any caped hero. The sounds are phenomenal. The metal monsters make a myriad of sounds throughout this book, creating the perfect noises for the reader, and they’re extremely fun to read aloud, such as the exit in the third panel on 8. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Action and thrills gorgeously set in the 1930s. How I wish the Lobster was a monthly title. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To find out more about other Lobster Johnson adventures go to

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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