There are lots of stories and, surprisingly, a number of comics predicated on the golem mythology, which is perhaps best described as a predecessor to Frankenstein’s monster. There’s are even a small handful of poorly differentiated Marvel characters called the Golem, and, more recently, titles like James’ Sturm The Golem’s Mighty Swing, and Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, by Dave Wachter, come to mind. The golem began as a Jewish folk story of a hulking human-like creature created, usually by a rabbi, out of clay or similar matter to do a task: building something, performing hard labor,or protecting and defending a group of people. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the story is often as much about the risks of playing God as it is about the monster itself. So, there’s a lot of great source material and meaning to draw on for Will Exley’s Golemchik.
Though Golemchik is a great looking and promising short story, it draws surprisingly little from the rich mythology hinted at in its title, and that’s a shame. It’s the story of a young boy named Kevin who’s left to play alone in the woods when his friends head off to summer camp. Left to his own devices, he has all the time in the world to make a new friend. As per the title, he creates—unwittingly—a golem out of sylvan stuff and his departed friends’ castoff clothing. Kevin and the golem get to work building wonderous things, exploring the underbrush, and observing (and terrorizing!) the flora and fauna. But the golem quickly gets a bit out of control, as brainless automatons are want to do. Kevin’s attempts to stop him and his new friend’s eventual, inevitable demise are told with a narrative uncertainty that is off-putting and hard to follow. It’s too bad, because the bones of a great tale—a golem in the woods and the summer idylls of a lonely kid—are here, but they don’t come together in a satisfying way.
Golemchik’s illustrations are probably a bigger draw: the sun-baked pastels of nature in the summertime, the minutiae of a young boy’s explorations in the woods, and the golem’s cycle of construction and destruction are framed with picture-perfect precision. However, Exley’s narrative is stilted and the drawings don’t have a great panel-to-panel flow to alleviate that feeling. Rather, individual panels are lovely, but the whole book feels more like snapshots than a complete story.
Perhaps I’m too intrigued by the greater golem mythology, but this story begs those little philosophical questions such as, what really brought this golem to life?, to whom does he answer?, and why must he meet his demise, in an existential sense? For a 26-page comic, I may be taking this a bit too seriously—it’s a quick romp that could be silly and sweet for a young reader. However, I truly feel that Will Exley has a lot of promise as both a storyteller and an illustrator (what an eye for detail!), but needs to build a story with greater focus and purpose, and this, unfortunately, is not that tale.
by Will Exley
Publisher Age Rating: 12-18 years