Sebastian Fiumara’s refined and energetic artwork do great justice to the pulpy and gritty world of New York City, circa 1933, in Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s “Lobster Johnson.” The tale is pretty straightforward: certain Chinese individuals would like to send money back home to Manchuria but certain Japanese criminal elements keep stealing the money before it ever reaches the harbor. That’s where we find ourselves in issue #15, the second and last part to the story, “A Scent of Lotus.”
Imperial Japan’s recent conquest in China has left a Japanese foothold in Manchuria and its citizens under Japan’s rule. It’s created an opportunity for the Japanese underworld to exploit and for Lobster Johnson to try and fix. For Lobster, there’s only one way to go and that’s on the side of justice. There’s an eerie irony at play. After Lobster has just been nearly killed and he’s been advised to rest for a few weeks, his response is, “Justice will not wait.” It’s an ironic tip of the hat to what’s come before, like Milton Caniff’s “Terry and the Pirates” and the Dragon Lady. We enter that same ’30s era but with a more sophisticated sensibility in this story.
With that in mind, consider this: Lobster Johnson must confront the Crimson Lotus and her pack of monkeys! She’s not presented so much as the Other but as a common threat shared by all the characters, whatever their race. It’s an important distinction that seems to work. There’s no getting around the fact that the Crimson Lotus is a pretty exotic creature. She’s a Japanese spy that cannot be killed. She’s this enormous woman covered in traditional garb and heavy makeup. Her pack of monkeys wear masks that resemble her heavily done up appearance. She reads less as a human and more as a spirit with superpowers. She’s certainly a nice match for the equally theatrical, and otherworldly, Lobster.
Aside from all that, there’s a nice scene in a diner that I particularly like. Handsome detective dude tries to talk shop with attractive female reporter. They were once a couple and now, it seems, they can’t even chat over coffee and pie. All because of that Lobster fellow. Eckerd resents all the attention his ex-girlfriend lavishes on Lobster Johnson. He also resents being put on the spot when he’s searching for information to feed his own Lobster obsession. Well, maybe you don’t go to a cheap diner if you’re expecting any lobster.
“Lobster Johnson #15” is out now. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics here.