Review of Steve Niles and David Wachter’s “Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, #1″

Niles, Steve, and Dave Wachter. “Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, #1.” Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2013.

In the heated atmosphere of wartime Europe, one does not expect to meet a golem in 1944. The gritty art immediately brings the reader into the heat of battle. The central question seems to be “What is the nature of evil?” Noah, a young soldier, has no doubts of the answer as he fights the Nazi menace that has invaded his nation even as his father has already been lost to the great conflagration of war. Much of the story is in flashback form, telling of how evil first came to his village as he tries to help Simon Richards, a downed RAF pilot, from his plane wreckage. The villagers need a plan to deal with the inevitable German scouting party that will come to investigate the crash. Noah’s grandfather gives him a secret weapon, a family heirloom passed to him from his grandfather, back through untold generations. It is a golem. It is the only weapon they have because “sometimes it takes monsters to stop monsters.” Though still in miniature homunculus form, the ill it betides already dims the life of young Noah.

The first installment of an excellent series, this work accurately and movingly depicts Jewish life in wartime Europe. The traditional lifeways are visible throughout the issue. Handing off the secrets of ancient Judaism to a new generation, though normally feted as noble tradition, here takes a darker turn with the resort to that ultimate weapon in the arcane arsenal of cabbalistic mystery.