Written by Cedric G! Bacon
The grand conclusion to Joe’s next adventure, it doesn’t quite build on the tension as the first issue illustrated. In this case, the problem could be that the ideas Mignola and Golden have crafted (the Grimoire, an invasion of the undead, a mystic curse from a time long ago) was a bit grander than the time or space allotted to the team for this tale; in fact, I would go on to suggest that I would have rather had a third or even fourth issue to really feel the threat presented, and let the previous story of “The Drowning City” relegated to the two issues present here.
But it could be a sign of design that Mignola and his team craft the Joe Golem stories this way: what the issue accomplishes are the usual highlights, from understanding the mysterious Dr. Church just a bit more (but with more questions than answers aroused) to just what it is exactly Joe is remembering (the flashback in this issue doesn’t work nearly as well as it did previously, but still hints at more awareness on Joe’s part that these are maybe more than just nightmares). But beyond the character development the action is almost like a tea kettle, in that it rises, bubbles, then bubbles back down. There are a couple of keen sequences and panels that illustrate the undead threat, but rather than something akin to the final moments of Fulci’s Zombi 2 (that haunting final end credits scene of the zombies walking across the bridge) the reader is not invited to wanton carnage of the sorts that they could get either in print or on TV via The Walking Dead. Much like the battle with the Ratcatchers in the first three issues of the series, Joe’s battle with the undead is a beautifully realized sequence of blood and gore, but does not rise much beyond that–the zombies are plodding and are dispatched with quite easily, with the ultimate deus ex machina coming into play via Dr. Church in a spoiler I’d rather not reveal, as I would like the reader to make their minds up on the satisfying ways of removing the undead.
There is one panel that does elicit a heartstring tug, and has shades of the video game Stubbs the Zombie. Its quite a clever scene that subtly questions the nature of love after death that makes me wish more had been devoted to these two issues in terms of that plot.
The issue is far from boring, which is another positive to take notice. Being at this comics game as long as he has, Mignola knows how to keep the reader vested til the very end, weaving threads that one hopes will be connected come the final page. And while the final pages reveal that Joe and Dr. Church’s story is far from over for now, it doesn’t exactly bode well for future issues that the threads being weaved will be adequately answered. A problem that I’m hoping Mignola will address is the brevity of the issues going forward. While yes, there’s a wealth of character development, the series appears in danger of going in a direction where its just moving on to the next cool idea rather than taking a moment and fully fleshing out this world. But maybe that might be the problem with me as a reader now, so used to the year long 12 issue build up of worlds and characters via DC and Marvel that maybe getting the job done in five issues may be the better way to go with things. We’ll just have to see next time, won’t we?