Comic Review: The Snarky, Supernatural World of “Joe Golem”
Every time I come across a Mike Mignola comic, a pang reverberates through the DC Comics-loving layer of my heart, since Mignola pitched his most famous work “Hellboy” to DC who rejected the series, only to let it be picked up by Dark Horse, which then landed it two films and Ron Perlman. So who’s the real winner here?
Well, anyway, my heart is aching again because Mignola’s newest mini-series with Dark Horse, “Joe Golem: Occult Detective,” is almost as cool as “Hellboy.” And certainly as supernatural.
The series is considered a precursor to the events in Mignola and Christopher Golden’s novel, “Joe Golem and the Drowning City,” which I’ve never read, so I can’t tell you much about what they leave out or put in or any of those fun ins and outs fans usually like to hear. Sorry.
However, I can vouch for the first three issues of the mini-series, entitled collectively “The Rat Catcher.” We’ll take this bit-by-bit, because there is a lot going on in these issues, which makes me wish Mignola and Golden (I’m sure we can blame Dark Horse, too) had opted for more than a five issue series. Into it, then:
Joe’s snark is my favorite thing. He doesn’t abuse it, he doesn’t lay it on thick or beat you over the head with “hey, I have a sense of humor.” Because the content of “The Rat Catcher” is so serious in nature, and calls for a serious protagonist, the times he is snarky are more meaningful. I think my favorite moment is after he’s beaten, bloody, essentially half-dead, he says to (name is a spoiler), “Got somewhere I can fall down?”
In case you’re wondering, “Okay, but where’s the occult? Where’s the golems?” Issue 1 opens with Joe’s employer/partner/benefactor, Detective Simon Church in 1955 Brooklyn, bemoaning his long life of losing friends and partners and risking lives, and proclaims, “I have no choice but to forego companionship and continue my work alone, from this day forth.” Why, then, in the year 1965 do we have Joe Golem, doing Detective Church’s legwork?
Personally, and this may come as a shock to you: I think it’s because Joe Golem is, himself, a golem. Right? Shocking.
That’s sarcasm, I promise. Joe is plagued by dreams of a witch-killing golem controlled by some sort of priest, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say was probably Joe himself because Detective Church, in the early panels of issue 1, stumbles upon a golem that seems to be “awakening” in his office. I won’t spell it out for you, and I don’t consider it a spoiler, since it happens on page 4. And, I mean, come on, “Joe Golem?” What’s in a name, am I right?
So, Joe Golem is a human-looking golem who has to combat occult and supernatural monsters to save the city he loves (or does he? I’m not entirely sure). In the first three issues of “Joe Golem: Occult Detective,” he hunts “The Rat Catcher” which is my favorite name for a villain-type, which you’ll also appreciate once you find out who the “Rat Catcher” is. Yay, wordplay!
I can’t account for the final two issues of the series, #4 was released recently, while #5 is out March 2. I can say, however, that after reading the first three issues, I intend to grab the novel. Maybe you can listen to me try to be funny about that at some point too. Probably shouldn’t have said that; the anticipation will probably kill you.