In Review: Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged In Life

A fantastic tale of Christmas and sin, Lobster-style.

The cover: In the cold woods a cabin tries to keep its occupants warm, one of whom can be seen in silhouette through the window: an obvious gangster, complete with hat, cigarette in mouth, and big gun. However, things are about to really heat up as the Lobster is on the roof preparing himself to make a deadly entrance. Great cover of the Lobster by Tonci Zonjic, with his eyes matching the yellow of his logo. His clothing fits into the dark, chilly night well, while the window is a warm orange. The Lobster’s gun and the icicles all point to the killer that’s about to be killed. Very slick. Overall grade: A 

The story: A Christmas Carol titled story begins in the most un-Christmasy way: two police officers driving through the woods during a snowfall encounter a drunk man dressed as Santa Claus. The drunk narrates his tale to explain how he got into his current predicament. Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have their story begin with Santa on a corner yelling for donations on Christmas Eve. After he takes a nip from his flask, a gunshot has a body go flying out the window behind him. Three men emerge, guns blazing. The Lobster appears on a car telling the men to hurry up “and meet justice.” They grab the Santa as a hostage to escape the hero and tear off out of town. This is a strong character story. Naturally one would expect the Lobster to find the men and hold them to his style of justice, and he does, but this isn’t really what the story’s about. The title of this one-shot is a reference to the sins Jacob Marley committed in this life and now wears as links of chain in his afterlife. This story’s Santa is no saint, to be sure, but he makes decisions that will free him from Marley’s fate. His captors, on the other hand, make link after link as the story progresses, ending as one would expect. This story’s Santa was a real highlight, reminding me of Art Carney’s Santa in the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek.” There’s something sweet about this character with every decision he makes, and it makes him wholly real. Normally, I go gaga over the Lobster, but he’s really secondary in this issue. He’s a presence, to be sure, but Santa steals the issue. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first and last page of this issue are drawn by Kevin Nowlan. He’s a great artist, but I don’t know why he was called in to bookend this story, as Troy Nixey does the rest of the issue well. His Santa is a wonderful gawky sot, who shouldn’t inspire sympathy in anyone, but even when his lower face is hidden behind his beard he projects honesty that brings this story to life. Nixey has the perfect sense of exaggeration for the criminals, whose eyes and teeth make them more into monsters beyond what the story delivers. Their entrance on Page 3 is memorable for its grotesqueness. The Lobster’s first appearance, and throughout this issue, is much more formal — almost realistic — when compared to the villains and Santa. It makes him almost God-like and beyond that of a normal man. Nixey is also adept at creating settings, from the downtown of the city to the wilderness of a lone cabin in the woods. Page 11 has got a terrific dramatic image at the top of the page, the bottom of 13 has a scene that will steal readers’ hearts, 15 a fantastically designed weapon, and 21 a super reveal. Nowlan ends the book with a soberingly sweet image, but Nixey steals the book for doing its majority. Overall grade: A+

The colors: As with the first and last page, Kevin Nowlan provides the colors and they’re a stark contrast from the rest of the book, being very cool, with Santa’s outfit being the standout on Page 1. The rest of the book is colored by Dave Stewart who uses oranges sensationally for the background on Pages 2 and 3, before erupting into violence. I love when the Lobster’s goggles match the background colors, making him appear inhuman, and Stewart does this every chance he can with this book. 11 has some super oranges and reds, which are snuffed out with a turn of the page. The unique weapon has the perfect shade and shine upon it and colors explode out of their panels with the choices Stewart has made. An excellent job throughout. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Dialogue, a quote, and “The End” are created by Kevin Nowlan for his two pages, while Clem Robins provides narration, yells, dialogue, sounds, and a final whisper for Pages 2 – 21 on this issue. Everything looks great, with those sounds Robins has made sensational: it’s impossible not to hear the sounds on 21. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A fantastic tale of Christmas and sin, Lobster-style. It will warm your soul or frighten you to change your ways before it’s too late. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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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