In the first volume of Joe Golem: Occult Detective, we get two stories: a three-part tale called “The Rat Catcher” and a two-part one called “The Sunken Dead.” Taking place in an alternative 1965, these comics are situated in the “Drowned City,” a post-flood New York city, in which canals and make-shift bridges out of boards crisscross the city’s landscape. The art is dark and moody, and the images are as murky as the water flooding the city. It’s a beautifully haunting set of images.
Joe, who is plagued by dreams of witches and a large Witch-hunting golem, appears to be a human private investigator working for the elderly Mr. Church to fight against occult forces in the city. But we wonder if he’s connected somehow to the Golem given the title of the book and Mr. Chruch’s comments to himself that Joe must not recall certain memories. To stop the memories, he serves Joe a special concoction placed in cups of tea. In the first five issues of this series, we get many of Joe’s memories, particularly when he’s knocked out, which invariably happens with some frequency. But the memories are never explained. Only hints are given. Surely more is revealed in the following three volumes.
In the first story, kids from a home for orphaned children go missing, and we witness one of these abductions early in the story when three kids are out on a boat and one of them is grabbed by a creature lurking in the water. Joe, after meeting the woman who runs the orphanage, takes the two kids with him to seek out the monster. Joe goes on the hunt and finds more than he expects.
In the second story, we find out more about Mr. Church, and visual hints are given revealing how he has stayed alive well past his mortal lifespan. Joe continues to dream of witches and the golem, and Mr. Church continues to give Joe drugs to stop the dreams/memories. When Mr. Church discovers occult activity in a part of the city, he goes to find Joe, interrupts his date, and the two of them go off together to stop a grieving man from performing a supernatural rite that will have a negative impact on the whole city.
This is a great first volume, and I highly recommend it. Finishing it, though, makes me eager to read the following volumes, of which there are currently three (or get all four in the recently released omnibus edition). A must for fans of Hellboy and Mike Mignola.