Who isn’t game for a good golem story these days? Generally you don’t get too many stories using the Jewish folktale, but we get one from Oni this week. Is it good?
Brik #1 (Oni Press)
So what’s it about? You can check out the full preview, but to quickly catch you up, the official Oni synopsis reads:
Drew is a bullied kid in the Yonkers neighborhood of New York City whose family faces encroaching violence from Russian gangsters. Before his beloved grandfather is killed in an attempt to muscle the family out of the neighborhood, he’s able to pass down to Drew the story of a mysterious but dangerous protector who helped their people during other troubled times. When Drew finds his grandfather kept the secret to creating a golem, is it worth the risk to summon this supernatural avenger to take on the all-too-human darkness swallowing his world?
Why does this book matter?
Oni Press continues to put out well told and meaningful stories and this is no different. It’s the kind of comic that has just enough wonderment to propel it past average drama and into another world.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Whoa, he’s freaky!
You can instantly relate to this story, especially as it opens on a boy named Drew being bullied, but too proud to tell his family. This connects with his tough grandfather and mother who we quickly meet and get to know a bit better. Writers Adam Glass and Michael Benson open the book with conflict and, much like life in a tough city, never really let up on Drew and his family’s difficulties. It’s really only the story of the golem that propels Drew into wanting some justice just as the golem brought justice to his Jewish ancestors in Nazi Germany.
The key to this working is the voice of the grandfather, not only in his retelling of his ancestors use of the golem, but in his caring of Drew. You really feel the connection there and when that connection is later severed it’s impactful. Much like many good stories there’s a secret revealed that’ll make you want to read the second issue too.
The art by Harwinder Singh is good in a rougher, more street art sort of way. Characters are a bit flat, but their surroundings are clear and atmospheric. Take for example one panel that has the characters walking up the stairs on the left and in the panel on the stairs continue but the gutter shows us time passes. Together you can see how the stairs curve around and it makes for one pleasing page. The story of the golem works too in large part due to the art giving a dreamlike quality to the story.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Two scenes didn’t feel earned enough–one deals with the grandfather shedding a tear and another in how the big reveal is unveiled. The grandfather crying makes sense, but maybe it’s the art not selling the moment quite enough or the character showing a bit of sorrow when he’s been so tough up until this point, but it feels forced. In regards to the big reveal, Drew is talking with a woman in his own home and then immediately in what I assume is a morgue. Obviously comics need to cut corners when they only have a few pages to tell a story, but this seemed like a jump cut that didn’t work.
Nice flashback moment.
Is It Good?
If you like strong characters with a bit of wonderment thrown in this is a book for you. The characters are well written and you’ll feel for them right off the bat…and want that golem to show up already to enact some justice!