The first thing a reader will notice when they pick up The Golem is the book’s truly distinctive visual style. Adhering rigidly to a ‘nine panels per page’ layout and illustrated in a scratchy graphite pencil style, its unconventional appearance helps add further emphasis and atmosphere to this tale of gothic horror, providing a unusual look that serves as a perfect fit for this truly unusual tale.
The story revolves around Alfred Larchmont, a struggling magician working out of a small theatre in the late 1890’s. His career seems to be going nowhere, with the divide between he and his wife growing day by day and his debts spiralling out of control. However, a chance gift left to him by a deceased colleague gives him a glimmer of hope, but – with it – a truly sinister curse.
While the choice to keep the book in the ‘nine panel’ style could potentially be rather restrictive, Kent embraces it, breaking up the pages creatively in chunks. Sometimes two or more panels will be combined together, sometimes the entire page will form a single image, and this approach – as unusual as it may be – is employed for the most part with skill and restraint.
There’s something about the storytelling style employed by Kent that just flat-out works for this kind of book. Coming across like a slightly dated black and white ‘classic’ horror movie, The Golem has a terrific atmosphere to it, and while some of the twists, turns and reveals feel almost melodramatic in nature, isn’t that all part of the charm when it comes to these type of stories? Things also gradually degenerate into surrealism as the book reaches its finale, with the tone shifting from tense horror to almost hallucinogenic fantasy – a change which may not be to everyone’s tastes, it has to be said.
Interestingly, I almost felt like I was watching a silent movie at times as I made my way through the book. Perhaps it was something about the somewhat dated style of dialogue, or the fact that none of the characters mouths seemed to be open as they were speaking. Whatever the reason, I could almost picture the movie playing out before me, with one stark image after another punctuated by chunks of disembodied dialogue. Far from a criticism however, this actually worked even move to draw me into the world, setting an almost uncomfortable tone as the story turned darker and darker and stranger and stranger.
The Golem isn’t flawless, however. Some of the lines of dialogue and exposition can come across a little awkward, ‘clunky’ almost, and Kent’s visual style most certainly doesn’t lend itself particularly well to scenes of movement or action. However, these minor niggles aside, The Golem manages to play to its strengths extremely well, creating a tense, engaging horror tale that’s well worth the time it takes to digest its 150 pages.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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