Christopher Golden and Peter Bergting tease further mysteries “Joe Golem: Occult Detective—The Drowning City” #2 as we’re shown more of Mr. Church’s past…
Written by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Peter Bergting
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Clem Robins
As a madman’s plot to pierce the veil between worlds brings the Drowning City ever closer to doom, Simon Church and Joe Golem race against time to find an ancient artifact before its power is used for evil. But even a golem may not be able to withstand the menace of the mysterious gas-men…
Christopher Lewis: At the end of the last review I mentioned that I thought Molly and Joe would get along great together. While their two paths never cross here, this issue gave us more insight into Molly’s personality, so after reading this issue I no longer think they will get along.
What this really tells you is that I don’t know Molly yet. I never read the Joe Golem and the Drowning City novel, so I keep trying to figure her out as it’s obvious that she’s a critical character in this story. Luckily we get a better glimpse into Molly’s personality here.
The issue starts with Molly waking up in a strange place and the most notable thing I observed about her was her demeanor. She doesn’t act confused by her situation, but instead immediately tries to figure out what’s going on. This is obviously not the first time she has been in an odd environment and Peter Bergting depicts her perfectly as tough and standoffish. This impression of Molly is immediately corroborated when she finds Church and starts talking to him in a direct, threatening way. Throughout her conversation it is very obvious that Molly is a no-nonsense individual who has had a hard life and wants answers about her friend, Felix Orlov. The irony is that she is talking to Church to find out the truth, whom we know from the first ten issues of the series is a horrible person and a liar.
Mark Tweedale: I’m probably a little more forgiving of Mr. Church than that, but I certainly think he’s dangerously misguided. ‘The Drowning City’ #2 also pulls back the curtain more with Mr. Church and digs a little into his past (which, I must add, I absolutely want to see more of—perhaps a one-shot or miniseries). He’s been a detective since the late 19th century, and yet up till now it’s barely been a topic of discussion other than to express how incredibly old he is.
I probably should drop a spoiler alert before we go any further. I gotta say, I loved this issue. Molly’s my favorite character and the scenes between her and Church were pitch perfect. Molly’s fiery, shrewd, and she’s not going to take any crap—even when Mr. Church doles it out with half truths. The scene does a lot of heavy lifting, introducing a lot of exposition, but leveraging what each character knows and doesn’t know to generate tension.
Chris: When Church offered Molly tea, I involuntarily gasped ‘No.’ I kept thinking about the times when Church had wiped Joe and Lori’s memories using tea and was afraid something like that was going to happen to Molly. Luckily it didn’t. Molly is also stronger and more distrustful of people than Lori was, so I wonder what would happen if Church actually tried something nefarious with her.
Mark: Oh, I’m sure Molly would’ve made sure he regretted it.
Chris: Meanwhile Joe’s investigation into Orlov’s kidnapping ends with him unconscious and having a flashback to his time as a golem in 1400s Croatia. We haven’t seen any flashbacks of Joe as a golem for a few issues now, so it was good to see them return. Though I typically see an underlying theme in these flashbacks that ties into the present-day storylines, I didn’t see a connection this time. I think the main purpose was to show us that Joe is continuing to remember his past and also that Church is continuing to wipe Joe’s memories (and for some reason there are a tremendous amount of witches in Croatia). Hopefully, a connection between the flashback and main narrative will show itself in the future.Continued below
Mark: I’ll let you wait and see…
I couldn’t help but notice Michelle Madsen’s being very careful with the flashbacks to use the same color language Dave Stewart established in the first two volumes, which I’m very happy to see. It means when certain colors are quoted, we can still count on them to maintain some connection and meaning. We’re not learning a new color language. I feel like she’s doing this better and better with each new Mignola project she’s working on.
Plus there’s just good color storytelling here in general. Like in the scene when Molly wakes up, all the colors are warm, but they become colder and more sickly as she approaches Mr. Church. She brings so much feeling into a sequence that’s mostly two characters talking.
Shall we grade this one?
Chris: Overall, this issue is still setting the stage for the story, with nothing more shown of either Cocteau and Orlov. I would expect we will see these two again in the next issue. It’s a 7 from me.
Mark: There is certainly a lot of stage setting, but it was charged with tension and revealed character dynamics. I liked getting to see a little more of Church’s past while furthering the central mystery of Felix Orlov. And Molly was great. Did I already say that? Because she was great. I’m giving the issue an 8.
Final verdict: 7.5 – This issue spends a great deal of its time digging around in Church’s, Orlov’s, and Joe’s pasts, but it’s all compelling stuff, and the character work—especially between Church and Molly—is excellent.