For an issue that opens with a city-wide zombie attack and ends with the musings of a mad scientist repairing a magic, steam punk heart, Joe Golem #5 is incredibly dull. I'm not exactly surprised by this based on the first four issues, but I had hoped that the first arc would end by tying up some loose ends and perhaps giving us a new reason to care about the main characters. Sadly, this issue simply cements the series as being a perfectly skippable in pretty much every way. The first problem with this issue is that it's half an ending to the last story and half the beginning to a new one. As such it's not cohesive in any way which wouldn't be so much of a problem if the individual halves worked better. The wrap up of the dead rising happens so fast that it feels more like the end of a minor video game boss-fight than a confrontation with a villain powerful enough to literally raise the dead. There are some fun action beats to the initial fight, but even those are a little muted by the mishmash of different tones (quippy buddy comedy, tragic horror, action adventure, etc.), and the workmanlike art (more on that in a moment).
The second half of the issue is actually worse as it doesn't really have a story thread so much as a series of unrelated scenes foreshadowing the future of the comic. Apparently shadowy figures are after Mr. Churches heart (which is a bummer for him no doubt). This is new information, but the many pages wasted on Mr. Church being mysterious and flashbacks of monks are not. Since the first issue, the page after page of unexplained flashbacks have serve to weigh Joe Golem down with their tedium. This proves to be no different was we are given a piece of a totally different story that goes nowhere and doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about Joe. As for Mr. Church, he's so much of a non-character, it's hard to take his constant mutterings seriously.
Another big problem with Joe Golem is Patric Reynold's art which is unfortunately not making the book any more interesting. Reynold's work looks more and more like a merely competent attempt at the style of Michael Lark and Sean Phillips. His characters are too photo-referenced with faces that often look awkwardly contorted or posed. His backgrounds are dully underdeveloped (count how many times the background is a flat color or texture in this issue). It's not horrible art by any means, but it's characterless and oddly shaded (characters sometimes look more dirty than shadowy).
I find myself running out of steam in this review, much like Mr. Church's heart (if you haven't read the issue, rest assured that jokes no funnier in context). There are only so many ways to describe a dull book without ending up with a dull review. In other words, if this review bores you to tears, it's not my fault, it's Mignola's and Golden's (an excuse I wish I had thought of earlier). The book is a truly boring read, and I think the end of the first arc is the perfect jumping off point. Its possible others will be more charmed by the pulpy, fantasy trappings than I am, but I doubt any will find much reason to emotionally invest.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective #5 Writers: Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden Artist: Patric Reynolds Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 3/2/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital