Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand

Lobster Johnson Volume 2: The Burning Hand by Mike Mignola et al.

Lobster Johnson is a fine example of the pulp magazine hero from the 1930s and 1940s. He's a figure of darkness. His back story is unclear. He wears the same outfit all the time. He has a easily identified signature--a dark blue claw on his leather coat and a burning claw mark on the foreheads of his slain enemies. So a reader would think that the title refers to his hand, which it probably does. But it also refers to something else.

Lobster Johnson lives in New York City and, in this story, deals with lawless prohibition gangsters. One group has been running around pretending to be ghostly Indians and terrorizing people. Johnson breaks up one mugging, leaving his trademark on the dressed-up gansters' foreheads. Enter the police detective and the girl reporter (also staples of the pulp genre) who are both investigating what happened. She's more effective at finding out what happened, naturally landing her in trouble.

The head gangster, Wald, is in trouble too. Too many gangland slayings and the end of prohibition looming, he needs a big investment that will pay off quickly so he can retire to Connecticut (or was it Long Island?). The "ghost Indians" are driving down prices on the East Side so he can buy up all the real estate and sell it to the city government for a big profit when the East Side Highway is built. But Lobster Johnson has been a problem. A crime associate brings in some help from Europe, someone else with a burning hand and a regular outfit.

The story has a nice pulp-noir flavor to it. All the right elements are in place. Johnson is a good tough guy but a little bit too generic. I wish he had a little more personality. The other characters are well done. The art is great, capturing the gritty New York underside of the 1930s well. The story moves at a nice pace. I enjoyed reading this book.

1 comment:

  1. I've been pushing this book to the end of my wishlist for a while. I seems I'm at a loss.

    It sounds like a solid read.