First the bad dreams, cults.
Dark stirring under the waves.
In a nutshell, I really liked Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden's previous "illustrated novel," Baltimore: or, the Steadfast Tin Soldier & the Vampire, & I figured if this was anything like that, I'd gobble it up. & it was! I've said before-- Mignola's conceptual work is great, & his art is absolutely astonishing, but his paneling & execution sometimes falter in the comic book medium. Switching to this-- words with the occasional picture-- really assuages any issues I've had with his pacing or exposition. Mignola has a sensibility & aesthetic that is pretty plastic-- occult artifacts, Lovecraftian clockwork, arcane pop culture, Grimm's Justice League-- & here he is paradoxically both on the fringes of our world & more subtle in the cards he lays on the table. That is-- stories like Hellboy take place in our world, more or less-- a world you can assume is like our own except when the text explicitly specifies otherwise. Hellboy is also a sort of openly supernatural high concept pitch-- a secret agency made up of monsters, protecting our world. Pithy & concise. Joe Golem is set in a world unlike ours-- a Depression Era New York half underwater, sunken & connected by bridges & boats. Despite the off-kilter setting, Joe Golem has a slower build of the supernatural-- it happens behind curtains, off-stage, until suddenly, kaboom! Mind-shattering tentacles & many-angled eyes. I was asked recently what "squidpunk" was-- well, this is it. This is what squidpunk is. Steampunk is like cyberpunk with cogs & gears, & squidpunk is like steampunk with the Ars Goetia & the Necronomicon. Unknowable colours & unraveling minds. Joe Golem doesn't forget the "punk" part either-- the struggling folks of the Drowning City are the stars here, not the wealthy in their spires uptown. The story dances from the Flatiron to cemeteries in Brooklyn-- hey, that sounds a lot like my life! Like with a lot of urban horror, I can't help but wonder if White Wolf games influenced the writer-- in this case, Promethean: the Created. Joe Golem has a lot in common, thematically & narratively-- I wonder if it is influenced, inspired, or just convergent evolution. Either way, as a fan of Promethean, it is nice to see similar ideas, writ large.