In most horror stories, the monster interrupts “normal life” when it shows up. It makes sense then that the defeat of the monster is what makes for a happy ending — the creature’s death allows for a return to the status quo. It’s this very thing that makes the Jewish Golem so unique. As Breath of Bones #1 so beautifully demonstrates, this particular monster’s job is to actually protect the status quo, not threaten it.
Here’s the official description from Dark Horse:
The giant clay monster from Jewish legend goes on a Nazi-killing rampage in order to protect the inhabitants of a small Jewish stronghold and an injured British pilot.
Steve Niles has been penning horror stories for so long that he’s graduated well past competent and into very good. And if Breath of Bones #1 is any indication, Niles might actually be on his way to achieving great. While the story was developed by both Niles and Matt Santoro, the script is all Niles and so far it’s both emotionally satisfying and super creepy. Set in a small Jewish village in the days preceding WWII, we meet Noah, a boy who watches in dismay as his father and all the other able-bodied men go off to fight the Nazis. This move, ironically, leaves the town hyper-vulnerable to the Nazis, and ultimately creates the need for a supernatural protector.
Niles will have to tread carefully with this title. The Golem, of course, is less monster and more product of Jewish mysticism and any attempt at a horror story will have to handle this reality with care. But so far Niles seems to be aware of this. If you’re looking for immediate skill-crushing and a page-one introduction of a monster, then this isn’t the title for you. Niles is taking his time. He’s establishing the use of the Golem as a moral dilemma, and to great effect.
Dave Watcher’s art is perfect for this title. Perfect. His pages are beautifully rendered and his characters actually act — meaning that even without dialogue, we can read mood and feeling just from posture and facial expressions. His work takes this title to the next level.
Breath of Bones #1 is off to a strong start. If you want a title that seems intent on exploring the line between hero and monster, then go pick this up.