“Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum” is a thrilling pulp tale — the sort of zippy ride you’d expect to see headlining before a main feature at a great matinee special of crime and gangsters. Lobster Johnson races against time through the air in a zeppelin to stop a troupe of Nazi soldiers looking to deliver terror to the US, resulting in a gripping yarn that delivers many moments of excitement as well as a tightly structured narrative that gives our hero time to shine while also introducing and closing a case.
Lobster Johnson is such an intriguing hero because he’s two-dimensional. He spouts off semi-cheesy lines and he’s more action and reaction than he is depth or exposition. Nonetheless, he is an enthralling lead because every one of his scenes moves forward with pace and certainty. Lobster doesn’t take a step back, barely pauses and always seems confident in his choices and abilities. This is a callback to days when heroes were square jawed, always right and they absolutely knew it. Lobster is the perfect guy to take apart a Nazi death scheme in a mere one-shot. Such brevity is also the only failing of this book as the tale is in and done possibly a touch too fast.
The final sequence of this book is utterly amazing. It all comes down to the certainty of Lobster Johnson and his ability to act with instantaneous force. There is no doubt Lobster is acting for the greater good and is an almost indescribably selfless hero. In a crazy act, Lobster rushes off the page and we aren’t shown what transpires between him and the villain afterwards. There is every chance Lobster has lunged to his death, but we can’t help but have blind faith. This is what Lobster instills in those who believe. The final page is the perfect send off moment both in what it portrays and how. There’s enough grace and subtlety to allow the audience to enjoy the moment at their own pace.
Tonci Zonjic is back to drawing Lobster Johnson and he continues to showcase how perfect he is for this tone, genre and period of tale. The action move like poetry with perfect snapshots of rhythm that convey motion. Whenever men fight, or even just run, Zonjic knows how to make it look effortless and completely engaging. He also knows how to draw melting men in fedoras exquisitely well in a gory fashion. With Dave Stewart’s always sublime colors bringing out the danger and setting the mood, there’s nothing wrong with the visuals in this book at all.
“Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum” is a very well created, fun and smart book. There is an old school sensibility to this title, as well as the character and his world, and everyone on the creative team works to ensure an authentic vibe is constructed. Lobster is the hero who gets things done instantly without anguishing or agonizing over it all. He acts and the world responds accordingly to his presence and certainty. This is a mainline of intense action straight to the jugular.