For Mignolaversity this week, Brian and David make up for lost time by throwing down a double feature of reviews, talking first “Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand” #5 from last week and then “B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine” #1 that dropped yesterday. Let’s see their thoughts below!
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tonci Zonjic
Lobster Johnson blasts his way through an army of mad sewer cannibals in order to get to the greedy mob boss Wald!
Brian: This week brings us the conclusion to The Burning Hand, the latest Lobster Johnson miniseries. This series came out of the shoot strong, helped along by the incredible art of Tonci Zonjic. So, as this train pulls into station, how do you think the series wrapped up, David?
David: Eh? Is that fair to say? I mean, Tonci’s art was great as per usual, but this read like the conclusion of an arc in an ongoing. I don’t really know if we’ll ever get what happens next or even see any of the non Lobster Johnson and his Merry Men characters again. I like to think that we will, but given what we’ve seen from the character’s minis before, they don’t seem to continue on each other.
I guess I’m just a little underwhelmed by this mini. It was fun with great art, but it ended up feeling wrapped up in four and then just…kind of…ending. Am I crazy?
Brian: Not at all – for a mini that I really enjoyed at the get-go, this finale was super lackluster. There wasn’t too much to sink your teeth into in terms of story, and it felt like it was the bridge to another arc but, as you said, who knows when that next arc will be, or if it will pick up where this left off?
All we do know, from the letters page, is that Zonjic is doing covers for the next Lobster Johnson mini, and that is great news.
David: Yeah, that’s great news. Zonjic did a great job, but this mini just petered out in a way that most Mignola ones do not. The worst part too is by the end I was utterly fascinated by…the guy in the white suit who is sort of the sneaky big bad of the story. That guy is a great character, and he’s just playing everyone. I would be totally down with more of him and more of the story, but ending it here? It’s just bad juju in my book. And this is a book that does not like bad juju!
Brian: Yeah, this Peter Lorre-ish character is by far the most fascinating character in the story. I am hoping that the next Lobster mini focuses on him.
What was also head-scratching to me was the cannibals attacking in this issue – I mean, I’m not one to complain about a cannibal shoot out, but it seemed to come out of left field, and didn’t really fit the tone of the series.
David: Yeah, it was a little weird, wasn’t it? I mean, I enjoyed it, but nothing preceded it that made it make sense. Plus, apparently it was a place the gangster dude maintained. Not to be overly cliche about gangsters, but are they really the type to have a shit ton of cannibals hanging out in basements? And why wouldn’t there just be ONE cannibal remaining? Wouldn’t they all eat each other until one that is badly wounded remains? Perplexing. I could go on and on about these cannibals Brian.
Brian: I’m with you man, it just doesn’t add up. And, like a movie with a bad ending, sadly, this issue makes me not appreciate the four that came before it quite as much.
This might be a good time to talk about Lobster Johnson as a character. Although we all enjoy pulp stories, it is a little strange to me that this is the character that Mignola and crew decided to give his own series of spin offs, outside of the BPRD banner. Especially because so much of BPRD is about world building, and this really doesn’t.Continued below
David: Well, I think the thing is, Lobster Johnson is a really popular character. I think, to use an analogy, he’s the Boba Fett of the Mignolaverse. He’s that guy who kept showing up and taking people out and leaving claw marks on foreheads, and then next thing you know people wanted MORE MORE MORE. But you could make an argument that he was what, the fifth, maybe sixth most important character in this mini-series? He wasn’t even the protagonist. He was…just a guy who came around and took people out and was the ringleader of a vigilante gang.
But I think that fits into the world of pulp, and I don’t think the goal of the LoJo stuff is to build a world. I think their goal is to just tell stories that are fun, pulp throwbacks. Mignola loves touching on his influences, and it seems likely that pulp is in there. I just don’t think you can assess this mini-series – or any of the other LoJo ones – under the same criteria as B.P.R.D. or Hellboy simply because they are a whole different animal.
That said, I still think this didn’t get the job done as an individual issue or as a complete story in my book, Peter Lorre or no Peter Lorre.
Brian: I would agree with that – this falls short, and it pains me to say that.
Overall, how would you rate this issue? I can’t give it any higher than a 5.5, and that is mostly an art-inflated grade.
David: I’ll match that, and give it a 6 overall as a mini-series. Which is a shame because that is definitely the lowest grade I’ve ever given a Mignola anything.
Brian: I’ll bump the mini up to a 7, because until this issue, i felt it was a pretty solid mini; we got some good action, some claws to the head, and some witty dialogue. Plus, again, Zonjic’s stellar art. I just wish that there was either a little more logic to this final issue.
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
Caught between bat-faced monsters, a devastating earthquake, and the mad science experiments of Zinco, Devon and Fenix form an uneasy alliance in order to get to safety!
David: So we’re back with another issue of B.P.R.D., this time the first issue of a Hell on Earth joint titled “The Devil’s Engine,” with the main team of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Tyler Crook onboard. Tell me Brian – is it possible for a story that is all Devon and Fenix to get you going?
Brian: I suppose it is possible and, as we’ve discussed previously, I like the world-building aspect of these minis not focusing on the main gang each time, but man, this is off to a pretty slow start.
David: I didn’t mind it, but I wasn’t super into it either. Given that at least 50% of the issue was Fenix having a panic attack, it had very low upside. The other thing that gets me is was it ever clarified that Devon was supposed to be off tracking Fenix after she shot Abe? I’m confused about that. I personally thought he was going off the reservation, but now it seems he is on a B.P.R.D. sanctioned mission.
I guess that goes back to my core issue though: I don’t like Devon, and it is hard to handle him as the lead.
Brian: I think Devon is a fine supporting character, but nothing about him makes me really want to read a mini with him as the focus. But, that’s what we have here, so it’s time i stop bitching and give it a shot.
I mentioned the slow start, and you mentioned Fenix’s panic attack, and I think those are the clear issues with the book from the get-go. I didn’t need three different instances of Fenix flipping out about the train. That said, I think Fenix is a fun character, and I’m glad that she is getting more face time. And yeah, i’m not sure if Devon was tracking her or not.Continued below
What is it about Devon that you don’t particularly dig?
David: Well, to be honest, I think I don’t like him for the fairly run of the mill reasons: you’re kind of not supposed to like him at this point. I mean, he let Abe get shot and then let Fenix go. Nobody puts Abe-y in the corner! Too far? Too far.
But yeah, I really hope they expand the cast on this because in this first issue, Devon and Fenix are not too engaging of a duo for me. Tyler Crook’s art is really nice, as per usual, but I need more than that. Were you glad to have Crook back in action?
Brian: That’s like asking if a flower misses the rain, silly Harper. Of course I am! Crook is one of the best at what he does, and what he does in this issue is elevate some borderline dull pages into something that visually is exceptional. He, like Richard Corbin to a degree, brings an almost San Francisco-indie look to his facial expressions, and it really separates his work from some of the other B.P.R.D. folks. It also makes his supernatural work pop even more off this page, when compared to his humans.
Now, what did you think of the Zinco business?
David: You know, it has been building for the past few B.P.R.D. minis. It really feels like in about 2 or 3 minis, we’ll reach a head and something crazy will happen. But I loved that part. Definitely the best part of the issue for me. I loved how their new leader was basically like, “oh yeah, sure, just eBay this room of Nazi paraphernalia.” before he goes off to talk about resurrecting their grand leader, who, near as I can tell, is going to be at least Round 3 of The Black Flame. Lots of interesting tidings in that section.
What else did you pick up from that? I have to admit, this issue did make me excited for the mini after this so we can see how Fenix is going to fit in with everyone else. I’m really curious as to how she and Panya will fit together. Fenix with her gut feelings of knowing when bad is coming and Panya and her ability to Layla Miller-esque “know stuff.”
Brian: Yeah, the Zinco stuff was by far the most exciting stuff in the issue. The Black Flame is the logical choice for who the grand leader is going to be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is someone else and we’re being rope-a-dope’d. This sequence made me excited for the next two issues of this mini, but I’m not really sure how the A and B sections are going to come together just yet.
Fenix clearly is a character that is considered super important right now in the Mignolaverse, so I’m not surprised that she is the focal point of this mini. I’m not surprised you brought up Panya, as you are a well-documented Panya fanboy (even noted by Scott Allie!). But yeah, their skill sets are interesting counterpoints to each other.
So, overall, we both seem a little cold on this book, but remain hopefully. For me, that sounds like a 6.5. What say you?
David: I think talking about it made me more positive about it, but overall it definitely wasn’t my favorite start. I do think it will pick up, so for me, I’ll give it a hopeful 6.0 with thoughts that the stories later could make it move up overall to a 7.0. But we’ll see. Anything else to add, champ of champs?
And I am not a Panya fanboy!
Brian: Hey, I’m not judging. Dif”rent strokes…