Written by Cedric G! Bacon
From the outset, any Dark Horse publication that carries Mike Mignola’s name in its title is almost a license for success. The creator of Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense at this point has a very secure legacy in comic books, one that would give him every reason to just coast on “greatest hits” alone (offering his name to any title that will pay him enough, such as Stan Lee) but Mignola is far from one to rest completely on his laurels, as this newest title, “Joe Golem”, proves.
The first part in a three issue mini-series, the world of “Joe Golem” appears very similar to ours: the story is largely set in a New York City of mid-1960s, a time when the musical landscape was being reshaped by the likes of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Beach Boys yet our protagonist seems like he’s been cut from the cloth as Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade or Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe–a hardboiled private eye up against the evils of the world. Of course, what separates this world from the real world we as the reader know is that the New York City Joe Golem occupies is one ravaged by a flood at some indeterminate time in the past, a length of time long enough that there are several panels that make it clear the citizens of the city have managed to survive and even adapt to their new surroundings.
Not much is made of Joe Golem’s character at the outset; the reader is introduced first to a mysterious “partner” named Dr. Simon Church , a man who has some sort of connection to the golem of Jewish folkloric myth. Now, for those not knowing, a golem is an anthropomorphic being animated generally from inanimate matter, such as clay or rocks. And as such, there are several flashbacks that do show Church has such a monster in his closet quite literally, and whether or not there is a connection to Joe is yet to be seen.
The horror element of the story is that typical Mignola flair for marrying myths from the mists of time with Lovecraftian nightmares, with Joe Golem investigating the disappearance of children around the canals of New York, with the first issue’s cliffhanger leaving the reader on edge in a situation that I feel was Mignola’s love letter to the film serials of the 1930s and 1940s, with the hero left in such a state that we will have to “tune in next time” to discover if they are safe or not.
And as you yourselves will have to do, waiting for the review of issue 2. Until then…