by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Troy Nixey, and Kevin Nowlan
Out from Dark Horse Comics, comes this one-shot in the Lobster Johnson universe. In the dead of winter, two patrolmen come across a man dressed as Santa, seemingly well past drunk. Mignola and Arcudi use this introduction to dive into the story of wrong-time-wrong-place for this one man. Whether it is a mini-series or one shot, new tales with these characters are always welcome, though A Chain Forged in Life offers little else.
Despite the story starting out in the dead of winter with this odd sight of a drunk Santa Clause wandering in the woods, Mignola and Arcudi simply use this as their lead in. Suddenly, the costumed male takes readers through the events he has just been through and the book jumps back a few hours. It is not exactly clear why the introduction pages are needed, but the issue quickly jumps into the tale of what happened to this man. Stationed outside of a major department store to collect money and donations for the holidays, the man ends up a hostage and leverage in mere moments. As gunfire erupts through the windows of the store, the armed robbery falls right into his lap. Mignola and Arcudi launch into this unfortunate tale rather quickly, and then soon after they slow down the pace. It makes for an interesting effect on the reader. In a way, this approach of opening big, and then drawing out the pursuit only increases the tension in the moments waiting for Lobster Johnson to arrive. While the craft of the script is a large part of that sense of tension, the art team are just as instrumental throughout the issue.
Troy Nixey and Kevin Nowlan comprise the members of the art team for this single issue. From the very start, the atmosphere synonymous with the Mignola-verse is set by the heavy inks and deep blues of the woods. Despite a brief exchange in front of Martel’s, the story’s primary location is in remote locations in the dead of night. As previously mentioned, the story slows down significantly as Lobster Johnson stalks his prey. The vantage point of the issue remains with the criminals and their hostage, showing glimpses of quick cuts of Lobster Johnson. Nixey and Nowlan do a good job maintaining a tone through their layouts and coloring to convey that sense of quiet and dread. As the issue continues, it is quite clear that this tale is rather simplistic. While enjoyable to revisit the world of Lobster Johnson, the plot and storytelling here take a straightforward approach.
For fans of the character, seeing him pop up on the racks is always a welcome sight. Getting new material from this team of writers and artists is almost assuredly a book worth picking up. With A Chain Forged in Life, there is not a whole lot of excitement beyond that. While the writing is sound and the art is equally so, the issue certainly lacks a spark or moment of originality. So, while it is nice to spend some time in this world, the enjoyment of this reads lies mostly in that reaction.