In 1993, Mike Mignola created Hellboy and later, the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), but he didn’t stop there, expanding the Hellboy mythos and with it, the Hellboy universe through an ongoing monthly series for both Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. With Dark Horse Comics as the home for the Hellboy universe, secondary, supporting characters have received their own spin-off series, including, most recently, Lobster Johnson, a pulp adventure-era costumed vigilante. Johnson made his first appearance in 1999, but didn’t get his own series until 2007. Since then, he’s appeared in no less than five additional series or one-shots, including Lobster Johnson: The Scent of Lotus, the first issue of a two-parter.
The Scent of Lotus #1 opens with a familiar, if not entirely unwelcome, scene – the titular character, Lobster Johnson, racing across a rooftop in pursuit of his prey. While his associates on the ground keep him apprised of developments via radio receiver (it’s the 1930s, after all), Johnson suspends his pursuit when he comes across a murdered Chinese courier. While he listens in from his rooftop perch, a girl reporter, Cindy (and Johnson ally), quizzes a couple of detectives about the crime. We soon learn the courier worked for the Chinese mob (tongs), but that connection did little to prevent his death to his superiors’ as yet unknown competitors for the underworld dollar.
The issue jumps between scenes of Johnson, his associates, the detectives, and the Chinese mob, the last leading directly to another attempt to move cash via courier, Johnson’s intercession, and the final page splash reveal of the villain’s identity (left unspoiled here for obvious reasons). It’s a testament to Mignola’s milti-decade career as a comic-book creator, plus his longtime collaboration with Dark Horse regular John Arcudi (a relationship that stretches back nearly a decade), that scene transitions, exposition, and dialogue are handled with the usual deftness (and apparent effortlessness) readers of comics set within the Hellboy universe have come to expect.
Mignola’s auteur-level control of the Hellboy comics unsurprisingly extends to Sebastian Fiumara‘s noir-inflected pencils and Dave Stewart‘s limited palette where muted colors predominate. As such, The Scent of Lotus #1 doesn’t stray far – in fact, it doesn’t stray at all – from the tightly crafted and controlled expectations associated with Hellboy comics. By the same token, that also means that “The Scent of Lotus” offers few, if any, story-based surprises, but what it does offer – the comfort of the familiar – it does at an extremely high level.