Sometimes a strip can move from good or even pretty damn good to out and out pantwettingly awesome within a single run. The fourth volume of Lobster Johnson, which collects an arc called ‘Get the Lobster’, does that self-same exact thing. If you’ve picked up a copy in the past and kind of been fifty-fifty on it, if you’ve been put off by the strange intersections of all the comics Mike Mignola has had his hand in at one time or another (Lobster Johnson and Witchfinder are, we suppose the two twin poles that sit astride of all things Hellboy and BPRD), know that this collection is the comics equivalent of season 3 of The Wire, the point at which things start to ramp up, the point at which things start to get really interesting, the point at which Lobster Johnson stops being a weird offshoot of Hellboy and becomes a thing in its own right, worthy of discussion and investigation and keeping up with.
First making his appearance in ‘Hellboy: Box Full of Evil’ way back in 1999, and then graduating, via appearances in further Hellboy (Conqueror Worm, 2001) and BPRD (Night Train, 2003 and Killing Ground, 2007) to his own sporadic strip (previously collected in The Iron Prometheus), it was only really in 2012 when Dark Horse seemed to sense the time was right to really get things motoring. Up to that point, we knew previous little about the masked vigilante, beyond the fact that he operated in the 30s, dealt with gangsters and hoodlums, left his blazing lobster mark on the foreheads of those upon whom he dispensed justice and had a tendency to appear and disappear mysteriously in the future time presented by Hellboy et al. What the run since 2012 has done is create a small coterie of well wishers for Lobster, a fledgling group of supporting characters (smart alec lady reporter, gangsters in the vein of Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet) that it isn’t afraid to mix up with the kinds of craziness you’d expect from Mike Mignola – so in Get the Lobster, for instance, we get wrestlers with microchips in their brains programmed to carry out all sorts of mayhem, gigantic experimented upon apes running amok, Nazis, airships, demented police chiefs and all the great and the good (and the not so great and the out and out villainous) descending on Lobster Johnson with the intention of halting his citywide vigilantism.
But that’s not all. That smart alec lady reporter we mentioned (who would no doubt have been played by Katherine Hepburn in her younger days) is trying to get to the bottom of just who or what the Lobster actually is – and again, this time around, we start to get a few hints, a few scents, a first odd glimmer of the true strangeness of the Lobster’s world (is he really part of a pirate family, the vigilante scourge of the high seas?) – which creates the very real impression that, in addition to riffing on such strips as Night Raven and The Spider, Lobster Johnson might in the near future start riffing on the likes of The Green Lantern, with tales of previous Lobsters past (and maybe future). Now wouldn’t that be a thing?
Here at Bookmunch towers we tend to devour a great many Dark Horse titles month on month as they are published and this can sometimes lead to a little bit of frustration as you chomp at the bit waiting to find out what the hell is coming next (it was the same with Breaking Bad – we watched that week by week, season by season, over a five year period). This inevitably leads to re-reading the first title as you read the second, the first and second as you read the third and so on until you get to the end of the arc. Never has that way of reading been as thrilling as it has with this particular run of Lobster Johnson. We would, of course, recommend you go right back to the start of this pulpy feast and devour it from the beginning – but you could just as easily start here and see what all the fuss is about. If you like the sound of a sort of perverted Dick Tracy (perverted by monsters and machines and Nazis and gangsters that is, Lobster has no time for the sins of the flesh), then this big bag of jiggery pokery is almost definitely for you.
Any Cop?: We love the Lobster in our house and we think if you dabble with volume 4, you just might love the Lobster too.