Comic book “time” and the real world don’t often sync up. Unless you’re the “Gasoline Alley” comic strip, it makes sense to not do so, because you run the risk of aging out your cast if the series runs for a while. That said, I will admit that I found myself raising an eyebrow at “Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged in Life,” the new one-shot from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Troy Nixey and Kevin Nowlan. While I always welcome new comics from these creators, it does feel a bit strange for a comic released the last week of July to have a Christmas theme.
The plot is fairly straightforward, as criminals grab a street corner Santa Claus as a hostage to try and keep themselves safe from Lobster Johnson but, of course, the Lobster always gets his targets one way or another. Once you remove the charm of a Christmas theme, there’s honestly not a lot to “Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged in Life.” Lobster Johnson stalks the criminals one by one, while some of them torture poor Santa until he finally snaps and makes a stand. It’s very by-the-book material here, with no real twists or excitement that jumps out at the reader.
That leaves it to the art to do the heavy lifting. Both Nixey and Nowlan are incredibly talented artists, but neither of them turns out anything especially mind-blowing here, either. Nixey has a few moments that do look particularly nice, like the panel with the train engine toy being tossed into the flames. The fire has a real texture to it, almost like a hand as it moves itself around the edges of the toy. On the whole, though, it’s just solid pages that you can’t broker any complaints about, but don’t stand out either. Nowlan draws the first and last pages and they’re really handsome — he draws this perfect combination of realistic and cartoonish all melded into a single character — but there’s also nothing in those two pages that really plays to Nowlan’s strengths of drawing jaw-dropping scenes.
This comic is by four very talented creators, but none of them seem to bring anything extraordinary on these pages. That’s a real shame; I was expecting something larger than life and enthralling but, ultimately, “Lobster Johnson: A Chain Forged in Life” is the very definition of average.