Review: Joe Golem: Occult Detective #1

Halloween is over, but the Mignola monster noir train keeps chugging along like it always does year round. For once, however, this title isn't related to his Hellboy lore, rather an old idea he's been kicking around for more than a decade, brought to life here with the help of Christopher Golden and Patric Reynolds. In an alternate New York, existing in a state of permanent flooding, an aging private detective mourning the loss of countless partners in his war for justice is suddenly miraculously blessed with a new assistant, one more suited to the darker corners of the drowned city: Joe Golem! When street kids start going missing, with talk of a mysterious water dwelling kidnapper to blame, Joe is on the case. But to what end?

Joe-Golem-Occult-Detective-#1How is it? It's a Mignola book, which by now means you've got a pretty good idea what is in it. It's a noir with a flavoring of monster violence, slow paced and cinematic. I won't lie, this familiarity is starting to wear at me a bit. The book has polish but doesn't do too much to stand out, outside of a few neat ideas that never seem to be emphasized. It's not bad, but these days not bad isn't quite enough to keep me interested.

The art avoids the 'Mignola-esque' style that so many other artists he collaborates with seem to take, going for a more Alex Maleev like sketchy photo aesthetic, the kind that utilizes extensive photo-references and is suited for noir storytelling with its prominent black fills. While often very good, there are certain weak spots in the art; particularly strange in the depiction of the 'pretty' female teacher, which in most panels looks bizarrely brutish. However, most of my complaints about the art would oddly enough have to be leveled at Dave Stewart, who nails the beautiful blue night scene the book opens with and then seems to have a hard time figuring out how to compliment the art for quite a bit of the rest of it. Stewart is easily one of the best colorists working today, which makes it feel awkward to single out his contribution as occasionally a distracting negative.

Unfortunately, I came away from this title feeling unimpressed, a reaction I've been having more frequently to Mignola's non-Hellboy books. Mignola has always been a formula writer, generally to his credit, but despite the spooky cool decorations there isn't any surprise here. If you want a book with atmosphere and competent dialogue you certainly could spend your money on worse comics, but I think I'll probably pass on issue two.

Score: 2/5

Joe Golem: Occult Detective #1 Story: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden Artist: Patric Reynolds Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 11/4/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital