By: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi (story), Sebastián Fiumara (art), Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: Lobster beats off a monkey and shoots at a woman

The Review: After reading several of these Lobster Johnson minis, I must confess that I have no idea why Mignola-Arcudi seems so committed to the mini format for these stories.  Obviously, there’s a thirst out there for the big Lobster and Mignola has the ideas to satiate it.  I figure if he’s willing to put out three minis in less than year, why not get off the pot and just transform it into an ongoing?  Seems like all of us would get more out of that than the system in place now.

For one, perhaps Mignola-Arcudi could have spent more time developing the political and historical meat which forms the basis for Scent of Lotus’ plot.  While I don’t really approve of writers taking broad, oversimplistic views of real-world events or ideas, using history as a springboard for a story lends it some easy credibility and adds nice color to your usual comic book adventure.  Unfortunately, the historical complications stop pretty much at a brief reference to the Mukden Incident, with little original material added on to make it worth the mention.

In some ways, the plot doesn’t really advance very much here from where it left off last issue.  Lobster’s meeting with Sai Wing, head of the Tong, doesn’t produce much information we didn’t already know a month ago.  Though now we know the identity of the people receiving the Tong’s money, and their motivations for sending the money, neither of these revelations actually changes the course of the story in any way.

Furthermore, the cultural/political details seem completely lost on our hero; his beef with the Crimson Lotus is entirely separate from the Tong’s particular hatred for her.  Honestly, the Lotus could have been in the city to target anyone for any reason, and that wouldn’t change Lobster’s goals one whit.  Once he overcomes the Japanese assassin and her shrieking assistants, it’s not as if you see a resolution with the Tongs.  At best, you assume their underhanded dealings may go on as usual, whether in support of the political downtrodden or not.

It’s also a bit disappointing that the Lotus herself receives little exploration in the issue.  If Caput Mortuum and Satan Smells a Rat are anything to go by, Lobster doesn’t get sucker-punched too often, so anyone who manages to eke a victory over him is worth getting to know.  Besides that, Lotus is one of the first figures we’ve seen—or, more accurately, I’ve seen—with seemingly supernatural powers in the Lobster series, which surely merits some kind of response or explanation, no?  But her lightning show barely fazes Lobster, it seems, and after one basic distraction from Vigilante 101, she goes down with little more protest or challenge.

Overall, the mini format of the Lobster stories throws a lot of confusion into what you should consider important enough to follow and what’s not.  This relationship drama between Detective Eckerd and Cindy, for example—it’s probably the most personal and convincing bit of tension in the issue, and yet you have little background on it and afterwards, you have no idea where it’s going to go.  Or how about the FBI takeover of the Lobster case?  That seems to call for a continuation of the story, and yet here we are, at the final issue of this mini, with no indication of when we’ll ever come back.  Troubling, troubling.

Let’s hope that if and when Lobster Johnson does return to us, he’ll be under Fiumara’s pen.  I really think he’s a great find for Dark Horse, with the same simplicity and elegance as Cliff Chiang, but with a lot more worldly texture and certainly more enthusiasm for the action scenes.  Stewart has become an expert in injecting a shock of color against his usually businesslike palette of colors (browns, blacks, whites, and greys) to draw attention to an important detail or a explosion of activity, and this gives more life to Fiumara’s as well.

Conclusion: It doesn’t quite bring the substance it promised, and it’s hampered by the choice of format, but the issue is nonetheless a fun sample of pulp with some terrific art.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – There’s something hilarious about this ostentatiously dressed, clearly overweight Japanese woman crouching behind a wall and thinking that makes her inconspicuous.  And where are her monkeys on these occasions?