The Golem is awake, and the Nazis are invading, but that’s not the real drama behind Breath of Bones #3. In this final issue of their monster-meets-army tale, Steve Niles and Dave Watcher offer us exactly what every horror fan secretly craves: a compelling coming-of-age drama. And it rocks.
Here’s the official word from Dark Horse:
While a town flees from advancing Germans, one young boy stays behind to protect their homes. With the help of a golem brought to life by the boy’s grandfather’s faith—and death—the battle begins for their freedom and future.
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 — a move that, ironically, leaves the town hyper-vulnerable to the Nazis. Desperate, Noah’s grandfather builds a Golem, but dies before awakening it; the task of invoking this mystic protector is left to Noah. With the Golem fully actionable, much of issue #3 delivers the sort of adventure that you’d expect from a final battle, but which writer Steve Niles delayed (appropriately) for maximum effect.
Yes, we get smashed tanks and decimated Nazis — but more importantly, we get to see Noah emerge as the new town leader, a role which propels him into adulthood. Focusing on Noah in this way is a positively brilliant move by Niles since it places the Golem within his proper context: the Golem is not the monstrous hero in this story, he is merely monstrous tool by which Noah proves his bravery and skill against the Nazis.
The Golem is beautifully rendered by Dave Watcher, as are all the characters. As I’ve shared before, Watcher’s characters actually act — the facial expressions add to the narration and Breath of Bones is an excellent example of how a top-shelf story can emerge when both the writer and artist offer their best work in service to the other. Niles doesn’t overwrite, and Watcher doesn’t try to steal the show.
The creative team behind Breath of Bones had a tricky challenge on their hands when they first launched this title. Out of all the varied directions they could have taken this book, they landed in a perfect place: a horror story where Nazi’s are the real monsters, the townsfolk are the real heroes.
Max Delgado is the founder and curator of The Longbox Project (@LongBoxProject), a memory project where comics are both inspiration and point of departure. You can check it out here.