I bought this book a few days ago and, like Baltimore,: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, the presentation is beautiful. So many wonderful Mignola ink sketches! I need to finish up some other reading projects before reading this, but I'm quite looking forward to it.
While I didn't enjoy Joe Golem as much as Baltimore, I still really liked it. Probably because I liked the gothic feel of Baltimore, more than the sci fi/steampunk feel of Joe Golem but it's a good read none the less. It also could have been that I had to read Joe Golem in little bites instead of bigger chunks like I wanted to. I think exploring Joe's past could make for some really cool stories.
Possible minor Spoiler.
Is this story supposed to be set in 1975? If so I don't think the timing works out for how old Orlov is supposed to be.
On the inside flap of the dust cover it says that the flood happend in 1925 and that 50 years have passed since then. But it says in chapter 1 that Orlov hasn't been Orlov the conjuror for 40 years, so I think he's at least 60 or 70 years old. But ten in chapter 6 Church says that Orlov wasn't born untill after the flooding of New York, so if only 50 years have passed it doesn't work out.
Am I just nitpicking?
I am enjoying the story.
Last edited by Ollie; 05-15-2012 at 04:26 AM.
I'll have to check that. I'm pretty sure Orlov was born before the floods though, as he remembers what New York was like before it changed.
I finished the book last night. I enjoyed it, more than Baltimore actually, but it felt half-formed to me. One thing that really damaged the story was the multiple viewpoints. They diminished tension, eroded the mystery and they slowed it down. The only viewpoint that mattered was Molly's. The first Orlov chapter introduced us to information that would've been more interesting through Molly's eyes, as we would learn about her through this exposition, so that when we got to the first chase scene with the gas-men it could move at a much brisker pace. The second Orlov chapter, with him in a tank slowly turning into another creature, was an artificial way to introduce tension at a point when the story already had momentum, so it ended up being more of a distraction, and lessened the eventual impact of the moment when Molly sees what's happened to him because as a reader, I was already braced for it.
Oddly enough it was Joe, the titular character, that had the most redundant chapters. They could've been completely removed with virtually no loss to the story. There's nothing we discover through Joe's point of view that would not have been more interesting and more emotionally powerful through Molly's eyes. As a result, Molly's interactions with Joe after he has become a golem again have no resonance. There's literally nothing for the author to talk about, because he used up all his material in Joe's chapter.
Mr Church was a very interesting character. I loved him, but sadly, he diminished everything that followed him. By comparison everything after him had less lustre (except for the sequence in the graveyard. That was amazing).
I really enjoyed the book up until the third act, from when Molly got off the submarine in Dr Cocteau's lair. At this point we know everything interesting we will ever know about the gas-men, and these creatures which were previously menacing become largely impotent and ineffectual. The little gas-man, which draws so much attention seems to serve only to lead Molly's eyes to the next thing she needs to observe for story reasons, and the reveal that it was probably a monkey meant nothing we didn't already suspect.
It's really a problem when the enemy is at its least threatening when you're in the enemy's lair.
Dr Cocteau was far too transparent, which is OK. I actually liked what they did with him, but he wasn't meaty enough to sustain the entire ending on his own. Where was the inventiveness of the tree in the graveyard sequence here?
Molly was my favourite character, but she lacks a character arc. She reacts to things around her, but none of them challenge her on a level where she has to fundamentally change in order to survive. This is part of the reason the ending was a let down. There's nothing she accomplishes in the final chapters of the book, that the Molly at the beginning of the story could not have done.
And then, of course, the book is called Joe Golem and the Drowning City, yet you could almost write Joe Golem out of the story, or simply have killed him off in the graveyard and it would have had little effect on the sequence of events that follows.
The ending needed to be more about that final chapter, the chapter when Molly realises she's alone, Joe needs her and she learns from Church what Joe Golem is, and the choice she makes. Imagine if the entire story had been told from Molly's point of view, how different this ending would be. New York would have been saved, and then after that we learn Joe Golem's story and Mr Church's tragic sacrifice. We'd be hearing this information for the first time having wondered about it throughout the entire book.
And this would be the moment Molly could choose not to run away. She's been the damsel in distress since the beginning of the story, and she ended up saving her own arse in the end, and through it all she had taken every opportunity to run away, only to fight when cornered.
At the end, Molly can live her life as she wants, survive in New York, make a new life for herself, but instead she chooses to make Joe her new family and shoulder the burden of returning his humanity. She stands her ground for the one person she has left, willing stepping back into a world of supernatural horror.
In this way Molly would have an arc, and the ending would have more significance.
Part of the reason the ending didn't resonate as it was, was a tendency to over-write the characters' inner dialogues.
I remember specifically when Molly first meets Joe she takes in ever detail of his face, mistakes his age and then reasons out his actual age. The problem with this is that at the time Molly was being chased by a gas-man and she only saw Joe for a split second.
Description describes whatever is being seen, but it also describes the observer. In this case, it is describing her as calm and reasoning... in a chase scene. Not only does this slow down the action considerably, but it dilutes the introduction of Joe.
What should have happened was Joe appeared and Molly gets a rough idea of his face, a general impression. Joe beats the crap out of the gas-man, and by observing him at a slower moment, Molly picks up details that reveal her first impression was wrong and Joe is younger than he looks.
It's a very simple thing, but you'd be surprised how much it can affect a story. Getting it right means the pacing is tighter and the character thoughts are more focused.
This is partically why the last chapter fell so flat. All the elements were in the ending, but they just needed to be juggled around a bit to have more punch.
We have Molly, so sad over the loss of her friend and family, Orlov, and yet she still spares time to think how alone she's going to be, how she'll have to make her way on her own afterwards. Her thoughts are too reasoned and articulate for someone going through so much turmoil. She needs to feel this stuff in her gut, not her head. So in this moment, she'll not want him to leave, she'll know it's the best for her city and for her and for him, but she won't want it. Then afterwards, when Orlov is gone, she'll get to process those emotions, and what his absence means, that she'll have to look after herself, and those thoughts will form part of the fuel that will make her decide to go after Joe Golem.
Whew! Sorry, for the rant! Like I said, I enjoyed the book, I really did, but unlike Baltimore which to me felt complete, this one felt half-formed. I just happened to enjoy it even in its half-formed state, but I would've loved it if it'd been more complete.
Last edited by Middenway; 07-22-2012 at 08:03 PM. Reason: typo
I just finished it today. The ending was kinda disapointing. I 'd heard about Joe Golem for years, apparently Mike was gonna replace Hellboy with him if the Hellboy movie was so bad that it ruined Hellboy. I'm glad that the movies were great and that didn't happen. I thought Joe was too generic, he didn't really have a charcter and when he turned into a Golem he had even less. If Mike had had this character in his head for so long why was he hardly in the book? It would've been cool to see him do more detective work to find Dr Cocteau instead of just using that supernatural hotspot machine.
Also, none of the characters really mattered and nothing they did changed anything in the end. Felix would've still changed and the old god would've just came and took him away at the end even without Dr Cocteau. And Joe destroying the Pentajulum didn't matter either because it didn't do anything. I was thinking that Joe was going to absorb it at the end like the secret of it was that it was really a part of him and it was going to give him his human form back or maybe give him the power to beat the old god and save Felix but the ending was just kind of a downer. I also didn't like Dr Cocteau's death. To just say that he breaks in half without describing any of the horrific details was a missed opportunity. It wasn't satisfying enough. When Molly heard him start to laugh as the tentacle lifted him up his laugh should've turned to terror as the tentacle squeezed tighter and tighter, bones cracking and his chest burning or something like that. rather than just his body broke in half. Something that said that maybe Felix was getting some kind of revenge on him or to acknowledge that he'd heard Molly.
I liked most of it untill the end. Molly was a plucky character and I liked Felix untill he was taken away. I wish Mike had drawn more of the city though. He drew way too many gasmasks.
Last edited by Ollie; 05-27-2012 at 08:10 AM.
Last edited by Middenway; 07-11-2012 at 09:24 PM.
Late to the party, but I thought this was a pretty fun read. It didn't have the literary weight that I felt The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire had but it was an entertaining enough action story in its own right.
Personally, I think I would have liked it a whole lot better if the whole bit in Cocteau's secret lair was greatly shortened as I felt the pacing really shriveled up and died there, so much so that a lot of the action in the climax lost a lot of its luster as I was a little bored with the story at that point.
On another note I wish we had seen more detective work with Joe and the little girl, their journey to the graveyard was great and it really built up their relationship and I think if we had seen more of that his transformation would have been more powerful.
That said, I did find Joe to be a barely camouflaged Hellboy, especially in the short story The Copper Girl. Don't get me wrong, I loved the short but if you substituted Hellboy everytime Joe was written it wouldn't have seemed out of place. Everything from the pacing of the story, his personality and the way the villain was revealed to be sympathetic at the end were classic Hellboy storytelling beats.
I finished the book today, and I've got a lot of praise for it. I enjoyed it, I thought the characters were pretty interesting, and the plot itself managed to (mostly) make sense on a first pass. In a way I think it was a better written story than Baltimore was, but it did feel a lot shorter and 'lighter'. I wouldn't be against seeing Joe get his own title, but at the same time I sort of think that it would just be more of the same, and not in a good way. But if he got another novel? I'd be fine with that.
Pulling: Whispers, 2000AD, Red Sonja: Unchained, Amala's Blade, Princeless
Any plans to do any comics on Joe Golem, similar to Baltimore? As much as I love Mike and Chris, and their Baltimore comic book stuff, I just didn't like Baltimore as a novel at all. I like reading plenty, about 20 books into King's bibliography right now which has kept me pretty busy reading over the last year, but I just didn't dig Baltimore, so I doubt Joe Golem would be my thing. Obviously though, I'm interested in the character though just by being a Mignola creation, so I'd happily follow the cahracter in the comic book form.
Reading this week: The Unwritten: On to Genesis, Hellblazer: Scab, Mountaingirl collection
But I don't think it'll ever be a comic. It's too similar to everything else Mike is putting out.
Pulling: Whispers, 2000AD, Red Sonja: Unchained, Amala's Blade, Princeless