Review – Joe Golem Occult Detective #4 (of 5) (Dark Horse Comics)


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Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden
Artist: Patric Reynolds, Dave Stewart (Colourist)
Release Date: 3rd February, 2016

Joe Golem first appeared in Christopher Golden (Baltimore) and Mike Mignola’s (Hellboy) illustrated novel, ‘Joe Golem and the Drowning City’, from 2012. The original novel, one of many collaborations from the pair, is set in an alternative worldscape of 1975. Fifty years after climate change resulted in Lower Manhattan being submerged underwater, the area is now known as the Drowning City. The five-part mini-series, ‘Joe Golem: Occult Detective’, predates the events of the novel by ten years and can thus be enjoyed as a standalone tale or a prequel.

Issue four introduces a new two-part story, ‘The Sunken Dead’, within the overall series, complementing and following on from the initial tale, ‘The Rat Catcher’. In the first story, we were introduced to Joe, a Private Detective investigating the disappearance of several children with his mentor and partner Simon Church. Readers were quickly alerted to the fact that both men possess supernatural abilities: Church uses science to prolong his natural life span, and Joe is having nightmarish visions of a monstrous being conjured to life centuries before in order to fight evil witches.

Having saved the children from an amphibious creature living in the underwater city, ‘The Sunken Dead’ sees Joe and Church coming together to investigate a new supernatural threat. When Church’s instruments indicate a strong occult power source at a remote mansion in the city, the pair discover it belongs to Argus Bostwick, a renowned collector of occult items who has something sinister among his prized possessions…

Golden and Mignola’s writing is mature as always, intricately capturing their fascination with mythology and folklore. Their language is similarly nuanced, conforming to the period setting without the dialogue or internal monologue losing its flow. In fact, the narration is so successful that the text could easily have been lifted from a Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett novel from the 1950s.

This is also true of Dave Palumbo’s painted cover designs. Beautifully rendered in cold, dark tones punctuated by the bright yellow text of the title, the covers homage older crime comics such as ‘Crime SuspenStories’ (the bi-monthly anthology series published by EC Comics during the 1950s).

Patric Reynolds’ use of intricate, rugged lines continues this nostalgia and ensures that every character is distinguishable. Heavy inking is used to lift the artwork, with ebony shadows complementing perfectly the noir elements of the narrative. Colourist Dave Stewart’s palettes also work to enhance the story on a visual level, signifying different periods and changes in atmosphere through a clash of subtle shades and jarring primary colours.

The series is thus a wonderful fusion between nostalgic references to 1950s crime novels and comics, and Golden and Mignola’s love of lore.

Rating: 5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth

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