Joe Golem is dead. Or is he? Your Major Spoilers review of Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #1 awaits!
Writer: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Artist: Peter Bergting
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Clem Robins
Editor: Katii O’Brien
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 15, 2019
Previously in Joe Golem: Occult Detective: Simon Church is fading fast in the city above and Molly is held captive by Dr. Cocteau’s gas-men below, but something stirs in the tunnels. How much of the golem is still in the man, or the man in the golem? And can either be enough to stop Dr. Cocteau once he has the artifact he seeks?
AN EERIE START
When last we saw our hero (in the final issue of “Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City”), he had sunk to the bottom of a river, bleeding from multiple gunshot wound, while his partner Molly was trapped by the wicked Doctor Cocteau. This issue picks up not with a miraculous revival, but a very dead-looking Joe lying in the water as fish eat away his (flesh?) outer layer. It’s a really creepy visual, made even moreso as we see his golem-form in dream/spirit world that he remembers from a time when he killed witches. Trapped onboard Cocteau’s submarine, Molly remembers her days as a starving street rat, giving us a glimpse into the forces make her as tough as she is, followed by her overpowering her guards, grabbing a gun and declaring herself out of friends. Elsewhere, seer Simon Church tries to divine what is happening, only to come to the realization that Joe, like so many of his friends, is dead. We get flashbacks of his younger life, then the same treatment for Doctor Cocteau, all while our hero lies on the bottom of the river being slowly eaten.
VERY MUCH A HELLBOY-STYLE BALTIMORE UNIVERSE BOOK
This issue is grim and more than a little depressing, but there’s also a lot of important background information being conveyed through the multiple flashbacks and dream-style sequences. As my first issue of Joe Golem, it’s simultaneously a little daunting but more accessible than I expected, and I’ve already purchased the previous series to read for background. Peter Bergting’s art in this issue is clearly being molded into the image of Mike Mignola’s, but it never feels constrained by that. In fact, Bergting’s range of expression feels wider than Mike’s throughout the book, conveying Cocteau’s joy, Molly’s rage and Simon’s sorrow very well. I’m also a sucker for a book where the main character is dead for a bit, reminding me of the old days of Swamp Thing, where every character is interesting enough to carry the spotlight. I will admit that, other than someone trying to bring a Cthulian monstrosity into the world, I’m not entirely sure of the stakes or what’s happening, but the narrative carries me through and makes me want to come back next issue for more.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT BAD AT ALL
In short, Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #1 pulls off a hard balance between world-building and moving established characters (this is, after all, the sixteenth issue of the series, even if it’s the first of this particular arc) and making new readers feel comfortable, something achieved through strong, expressive art and a story that gives readers a lot of information even as it keeps certain mysterious secret, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. I imagine this will appeal to established fans, but it’s also accessible enough to serve as a slightly-steep point of entry for a new reader, as well.
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JOE GOLEM: OCCULT DETECTIVE - THE CONJURORS #1
A solid mystery, a dead protagonist and a lot of important information make for a good read.