Writers: Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Illustrator: Patric Reynolds
Colors: Dave Stewart
Cover: Dave Palumbo
Letters: Clem Robins
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 11/4/15
Joe Golem Occult Detective #1 opens with an introduction to the drowning city (lower Manhattan) in April 1955. We are introduced to Private Detective Simon Church though his journal writings. Church is plagued by guilt over the death of fellow associates while he remains alive and somewhat healthy. The panoramic and wide views of these early panels is a wise choice, allowing readers to take in the eerie visuals of the city and Church’s office while he describes his concerns. Images of Chuch at his desk while contemplating his actions are eerie, not to mention the large, upright coffin that sits open and occupied behind him. In these early panels, Reynolds makes great use of the page giving just enough detail to portray the dark-lit scenes while maintaing that hazy visual that poorly lit situations require. Stewart’s colors are a beautiful compliment to Reynolds compositions, the wide range of shading in these black and white images make for great shadows while also helping to keep the reflective, past-tense vibe going strong.
When Church realizes things may not be as he suspected, everything shifts into color. While still muted, this shift is quite effective and breaths life into the scenes that you didn’t realize were purposely absent in the previous panels.
Here, Mignola and Golden jumps ahead ten years to 1965 where the Drowning City is in color, but Stewart still makes wise choices for shadows and muted tones (with pops of color here and there). In the city below Church’s office, a young thief Eddie lifts a purse from a woman before jumping off the bridge to his boat of a getaway car that is just passing under the bridge at the perfect time. At times, Robins letters are a bit obtrusive here, but they aren’t too detracting from the imagery. After the young men make away with the purse, the thief Eddie soon finds out how quickly karma can catch up with you when he is suddenly pulled off the boat by what looks to be a swamp-like creature.
The story then cuts to new scene where some flying, deranged looking creature takes a baby from a woman in a rural Slovenia (as noted by translated text). From here things escalate quickly. Towns people are attempting to flee from this creature while other various monster-like beings attack towns people and local priests alike. The violence here is tempered well. Reynolds presents enough impact, gore, and blood to give the impression that these attackers are fierce, but it isn’t so intense that it detracts from the details of the people’s faces or scenery.
Mr. Church still alive thanks to his various methods of maintaining his life. His companion Joe is sent to investigate the disappearance of three young children in town. Joe goes to investigate at the Hudson Home for Children and meets the attractive Lori Noonan who introduces Joe to the boys who were with Eddie when he went missing. The issue concludes with Joe taking the boys out to retrace their steps where Eddie went missing, only to make himself look like a rookie at keeping others safe. While the cliffhanger ending is a bit predictable, the consistent tone throughout the story, strange paranormal activity and beautifully muted tones make up for the slightly stalled plot.
While Dark Horse notes on their website that this series is a tie in to the graphic novel Joe Golem and the Drowning City, it works well as a stand alone. Crime and horror fans alike can appreciate the nods to classic crime novels and television with an intriguing yet unforgettable streak of horror based creates abound. While the story seems to end somewhat predictably, Joe Golem Occult Detective #1 is a promising first issue.