“The Golem Walks Among Us!” #2 is not just an excellent issue, it elevates the issue that preceded it. In a story where the titular character is a golem simply obeying orders, Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, and Peter Bergting focus on humanity in the face of overwhelming darkness. Major spoilers to follow.
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Peter Bergting
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Clem Robins
Brought to a small fishing village to fight a cult, Josef the Golem finds himself face-to-face with one of his oldest enemies from centuries of fighting witches. And when the fight comes to a head, the ultimate question will be whether fighting witches or saving humanity is really at the heart of the Golem’s purpose.
“The Golem Walks Among Us” #1 is a bleak story. It sees a cult of demon worshippers trying to claim a newborn baby, and those trying to protect the baby beginning from a position of weakness—in hiding, outnumbered, and with few options—and throughout the issue everything gets worse for them. Their only hope rests with a murderous golem. As the golem kills off cult members, the horror of his actions and the coldness with which he commits them is front and center. By the end, we are posited a question: What drives the golem more, the need to kill witches or the duty to save those the witches threaten?
Going into the second issue, this is the central tension. What humanity is there in the golem? Knowing that by 1955 he will become a man, though, the answer to this question feels inevitable. But what Christopher Golden and Peter Bergting explore with issue #2 is something more meaningful. Instead, they ask what is human in any of us. In all the darkness, a new hope is born from characters forsaking their own needs for safety and survival, and instead refusing to sacrifice their humanity.
It does not come as a surprise that at his heart, the golem is more protector than hunter. He is willing to let himself be destroyed if it will spare the baby’s life. However, when the mutilated monster that was once Veronica turns on Connie, the golem intercedes to save her too. This is not part of his instructions—no one told him to protect Connie—this is the golem’s humanity coming through.
As for Connie, she never gives up on her dead sister. Throughout the issue, she implores Veronica to fight the creature she has become. But her duty is first to the baby she vowed to guard, and time and time again, she throws herself into harm’s way to do everything she can to fulfill that vow.
And I think that Connie gets through to Veronica. As the golem fights the creature and starts to win, Veronica’s face begins to emerge. The thing is, if indeed Veronica is fighting the creature, then she does so knowing she’ll return to death. If survival was motivating her, she would have stayed safe tucked away inside the creature, but something else is motivating her, something that survived even through death itself.
Lucia’s father, a former member of the Mormos Church, has to come to the realization that it is not enough to merely separate from the cult. He must actively oppose them, and be willing to sacrifice everything for his granddaughter. He must stand against his past cowardice.
But it is Lucia’s sacrifice that is the heart of this story. Her sacrifice to Mormos to save her baby is the most human act, even as it turns her into a monster. Somehow it’s even worse that she survives it, that she’s still Lucia, but at the end she must stay away from her baby, knowing Mormos would use her to do harm. And this is far from an easy choice. Throughout the first issue, Lucia is clearly torn by what is best for her daughter and what she wants—the best way to save her daughter is to take her away, but she wants them to be together. In the end, however, she chooses separation, as horrible as that is for her. We can see the anguish of her choice too—Bergting does such a fantastic job with her here.Continued below
By contrast, Kushim has the cultists at her disposal, but all of them are driven by their needs for power or a desire to hurt those that have wronged them. They have wrung out their humanity, and it costs them. At the end, Kushim stands alone before she meets her ultimate fate as she is hollowed out, a mere shell of herself.
Oh, and that ultimate fate is drawn spectacularly well by Bergting. Mormos emerging from the depths alone made for a stunning page, but the inside of its maw took it to a whole other level. (As much as I’d like to share an image, I’m not going to because it needs size to breathe properly and we’re limited to 600-pixel-wide images here.) The build in this story, going from a tiny room where a baby is born to a god filled with a cosmic void, is so masterfully crafted. “The Golem Walks Among Us!” gradually gets more and more epic, but as it does so the human elements become more and more important—the grandness of the external stakes mirror the fierceness of internal stakes.
In the issue’s final panel, we are left with an image of the golem, holding the baby in his hands—his fingers are broken and his body strewn with cracks—and Connie says how important it is to burn brightly in the dark. And I think back to how all the main characters found their own ways to burn brightly, especially Lucia. As for the golem, there is no better way to portray the human within, than this final image.
Final Verdict: 9 – “The Golem Walks Among Us!” is certainly a dark tale, but hope burns brightly at its core.