Joe Golem: Occult Detective volume 2 brings back the same creative crew as volume 1 (Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Patric Reynolds, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robbins) for the second entry in the series. As I noted in my review of the first volume, I felt like the series didn’t do a great job of differentiating itself from the tone and feel of previous Mignolaverse stories. However, there were some seeds planted for future Joe Golem arcs that I felt were headed in an interesting direction.
Much like volume 1, the second entry in the series was a bit uneven. The first 3 issues of the collection follow Joe’s investigation of an arcane scheme to peer beyond the veil of this universe and make contact with forces beyond human comprehension. It’s the better of the two short arcs collected here and felt like a cross of what classic Mignolaverse stories do best. The mash up of religious history, voices from the beyond, demons, and possession will surely feel familiar to most. The second arc is just a two issue story of witchcraft that felt very much like filler.
The seeds for future Joe Golem arcs I referenced earlier continue to be the most interesting nuggets in the series. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. The creators have managed to start building an intriguing B plot that I’m excited to learn more about. I love getting more details about Joe’s history, his relationship with Lori, and the increasingly ominous behavior of Mr. Church. While I find myself drawn to learning more about all of these plot lines, it ends up being much more interesting than the A plot. The series so far feels a bit like 75% generic occult detective filler and 25% supernatural character mystery. There’s just enough breadcrumbs to keep me engaged but I’m hoping the A plot stories round into shape a bit more in the future volumes. There’s a really good series here if the creators can start nailing both aspects.
The artwork continues to impress. Reynolds is given a lot to play with in the first arc and he delivers. It’s only natural, but Mignola has a knack for finding the right artist for the books he’s involved in. Often, there’s a bit of a revolving door on the Mignola Dark Horse books, so it was nice to see the team in tact for at least two volumes here.
I’m hoping volume 3 will move from pockets of interesting story to something more sustained and substantial. Surely there is a balance to be found between the slow-burn sub-plot and the more generic story of the week storytelling. I felt like this was a downturn from the first volume, but there’s still enough good here for fans of Mignola and Golden’s other work to make for a fine read.