Joe Golem and the Drowning City, an illustrated novel by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Click to visit Christopher Golden site.

Fresh life is breathed into the old golem myth in this Mignola and Golden collaboration nicely served up by St. Martin’s Press this 2012. If you aren’t familiar with golems then you’re going to be if you go exploring these pages. Let me tell you this is more than an average air freshener generously illustrated with what appear to be black and off white woodcuts. (I seriously needed fresh air after delving into Ghostlights by Lydia Millet–more on that tome another time.)   The art of Joe Golem is good, the square shape of the book is very pleasing and the liberally spaced text entices the eye to read, read, read– all 272 monstrous pages all day long until the back cover is reached and one can go no further–yet!  I hope  this is just the start of a steampunk fiction series for one major reason– Molly. Ah yes in a time of teenage girls all agog over the likes of Lady Gaga (gag) comes the likes of Molly McHugh who knows there’s much more to life and people than shallow celebrities and everlasting lip-glossiness. Intelligent, resourceful, tough and damn fast on her feet Molly is my kind of heroine.  Need a positive strong role model for the fourteen year old female in your abode whose fingertips are superglued to texting? Well Molly just might be the ticket to more stewing on a girl’s brainpan than speed dialing her wit challenged peers.

Joe Golem reads like an expanded graphic novel–strong written and art images with much more text than usually offered in the graphic genre.  It has monsters of both the human and non human variety. Its got action, suspense, and mystery! It’s FUN to run with Molly–she’d run any hollow-wood stuntwoman to death on the fire-escapes of the drowned lower Manhattan. It’s 1925 and the watery world is alive with certain sorts of magic–classy and ancient, wild, wonderful and wet– and strange portent dreams.  It will make your heart pound to the tune of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and then some when Joe battles the ever enlarging eels. It might break your heart when certain clock works stop ticking.  It definitely should not bore you with another round of sex on the beach for the poor depressed tax man who has learned his wife is having an affair and his daughter does phone sex for a living (Oops, Ghostlights spoiler alert. My bad. I meant to refer to the drink–you knew that right? Yeah, I couldn’t lie to save my skin. A few more references to Ghostlights and I could knock that review off here via the old standard of compare and contrast–enjoyable read to not enjoyable read. In case you don’t know which is which at the moment just wait till I get to the Millet tome).

But you don’t have to be a fourteen year old girl to relish Joe Golem and the Drowning City. I’m certainly not. But I sure wish there were girls like Molly in the books I was reading at fourteen. Little Women never quite did it for me.  One more thing I really like about this book–how it presents notions of friendship, loyalty and family.  There is more to relationships than who shares your gene pool. Just ask Felix, Joe, Molly and Simon Church.  They don’t need no crystal balls to see the truth–after all, crystal balls are just props for amateurs in life.  Oh, by the way, this is a story about a girl whose best friend, a classy old magic man is kidnapped by a mad scientist and how the girl and her new friends. Joe and Simon, try to rescue him.  Yes, it is.  And then some.

Update News: There’s going to be a movie:

St. Martin’s Press link –with excerpt:



  1. artistatexit0 said,

    May 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    That’s a pretty good review! I hope reading never goes out of fashion…I do worry that all that “texting” and video gaming will make picking up a book seem like work.

    • May 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Al! Glad you enjoyed my review effort. I too hope reading never goes out of fashion–even though it seems few people read well or even accurately these days. The contemporary lack of language appreciation seems to create serious obstacles for newcomers to Shakespeare’s plays even though those little ditties were created for consumption in the general marketplace of the time. Sigh.
      Hope all is well along your riverbanks.

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