"Lobster Johnson: Volume 2 - The Burning Hand" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1 - #5
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tonci Zonjic
2012, 145 Pages
Trade Paperback released on November 14th, 2012
It's 1932. A tribe of Indian ghosts is terrorizing the city. Local vigilante Lobster Johnson reveals them as a hoax and uncovers the real reason for the charade. Gangster Arnie Wald is looking to scare the locals out of their homes. That just won't stand for Lobster Johnson. The battle between the two men escalates and Wald is forced to call in some supernatural help in the form of Kamala and her strange huspand Raimund Diestel. The guy is made of black fire. That can't be good.
There is so much to love about the Lobster Johnson comics. They're fun, scary, and exciting all at the same time. The Burning Hand is no different. Authors Mike Mignola and John Arcudi don't reveal much about the title character, but you don't need to know anything about him really. He seeks justice and he's not afraid to put a few slugs in the bad guys to get his point across, leaving their bodies with a red lobster claw mark on their foreheads. It's like Batman but without all the baggage or little boy sidekicks.
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Instead of working in a cave, Lobster Johnson works in an old abandoned warehouse. He doesn't have sidekicks or a butler, but he does work with a crew of like-minded regular people that assist him in his adventures. Whether they're tuning up his car or providing ammunition for his many guns, they're a huge help to LJ.
The Burning Hand also brings in Cindy Tynan, a reporter fro the Herald Tribune. She's definitely a Lois Lane-type character, but she's not nearly as dense. She would figure out Lobster Johnson's secret identity if his only disguise was a pair of glasses. She's a strong female lead and she can take care of herself. Yes, Lobster Johnson saves her a few times, but she also returns the favor. It would have been easy for Tynan to be introduced as a love interest for our hero, but that's definitely not the case here and the book is better for it. The comic would have lost a lot of momentum if it had to force these two characters together.
The supernatural element in The Burning Hand is brought in slowly and subtly. At first it's just a story about a gangster using elaborate means to make some cash. It isn't until Lobster Johnson throws a monkey wrench into his plans that things get brought to a new level with Kamala and Raimund. You can tell right away that there's something strange with them, but it isn't until the end of the second chapter that their true nature is revealed.
The design for these characters is top notch. Artist Tonci Zonjic brings a great feel to the comic that matches up with the story very well, but Kamala and Raimund are the two that really stand out. She's a dry Asian woman with a jade dress that screams spider woman. Raimund is wearing all black from head to toe. He's cloaked in shadow with a long trench coat, gloves, and hat. When he takes the fedora off, it's revealed that his skull is a mass of dark flame. That's where nightmares come from.
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Zonjic captures the time period so well. This is a pulp comic through and through. I love that the design for some of the characters look like old movie actors. Mr. Isog is reminiscent of Peter Lorre in Casablanca. You get the same sleazy feeling from him on the page as you did with Lorre on the screen. Isog is the one that brings in Kamala and her husband, yet he's clad in all white like some hero.
Lobster Johnson is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic characters and for good reason. He's got all the pulp fun of The Rocketeer while bringing a bit more drama to the story along with some great supernatural scares. The character battles gangsters and monsters with equal merit and never once stops to think of the insanity that his life has become. There's a scene in this comic where he ends up in a basement filled with zombies. His only response is to shout "Cannibals!" and shoot at everything that moves. That's the kind of hero that we need and deserve. Suck it, Batman.