Before getting into Joe Golem Occult Detective #3, I would like to take a moment to talk about mysteries in stories. There are a number of ways and reasons to leave a plot point unexplained in a story. In some cases, certain details are not revealed as a stylistic choice to add to the mythos and character of the piece (the brief case in Pulp Fiction being a famous example). Other times there is too much information on a given world to drop all at once without gobs of exposition, so details are revealed more slowly as the story requires. In still other cases it's to provide a constant impetus to keep returning for a little more explanation. This last kind can become extremely frustrating if overused and is, as it turns out, the downfall of Joe Golem. In the first issue of Joe Golem we were shown Joe mysteriously waking up from within the body of a Golem in the study of retired detective Mr. Church. Throughout the following issues we were treated to Mr. Church mysteriously injecting himself with green liquid, allusions to the mysterious flooding of New York City, Joe drinking mysterious potions to rid him of nightmares, and flashbacks of the Golem killing witches (mysteriously no doubt). What is worse, we are treated to the single most irritating habit of this sort of story, vague allusions to bigger plots. Mr. Church seemingly cannot appear without muttering to himself something ominous but inexplicable like "If you stay away too long, I fear things will go badly for us both...", "your dreams darken and your confusion grows..." or "we can't have that...". The initial arc of Joe Golem is only three issues long so this is the conclusion, but do not expect answers to any of the above mysteries. Instead expect vaguer allusions.
What is wrapped up is the detective story as Joe solves the mystery of the missing children (and scores a hot date in the process). The issue contains long, silent underwater scenes that give artist Patric Reynolds room to shine. One moment which I won't spoil here uses close-ups of some location details and one character's eyes to perfectly reveal an important and tragic twist. Reynold's work is realistic but has a noir blotchiness that emphasizes shadows and decay. While I was not entirely sold on his work in the first two issues, Joe Golem #3 has made me a fan.
In fact, despite the continued stretching out of the series' mysteries, there is a lot to like in Joe Golem. While Mignola co-writes with Chrisopher Golden, the series contains his sense of fantasy with an undercurrent of sadness that has made Hellboy and BPRD such compelling reads. Joe Golem himself is a sincere, intelligent hero who does not play too heavily into the hardboiled detective tropes his name suggests. The flashbacks seem to implicate that he was, in the past, a monster and is perhaps subconsciously trying to atone for the blood he has shed. It's a fun twist on an otherwise straight forward monster story that has the potential to become very interesting as it develops.
While Joe Golem remains in traction for the moment thanks to its myriad of unexplained threads, it remains a slight but capable entry into Mignola library. And, because it does not connect to the Hellboy universe, it gives new readers an opportunity to give this style of pulpy fantasy story a try, reason enough for me to recommend it. Here's hoping we get some closure on something, anything, in issue four.
Joe Golem Occult Detective #10 Writers: Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden Artist: Patric Reynolds Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/6/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital