Issue # 3 draws to a close Steve Niles, Dave Wachter, and Matt Santoro’s beautiful, poignant comic Breath of Bones: Tales of the Golem. I wrote in a previous review that this series is Eisner-worthy, and I stand by that—you are not likely to find a more powerful comic this year.
Part of my enthusiasm for this series is how much it took me by surprise. I enjoy Steve Niles’ writing, and I generally pick up what I can of his when possible, but my expectations weren’t so high for Breath of Bones: Tales of the Golem. And that makes me realize how bought and sold I am on the whole Hollywood premise of “pre-awareness.”
A new Criminal Macabre series with Cal MacDonald? Hell yeah!!! I am totally there! I know those characters, and I know that world. It’s pure comfort food. Chin Music—a magical gangster yarn with art by Tony Harris? Oh yes. More of that please. But a new, 3-issue mini-series about a monster I don’t really love with an artist I haven’t heard of? Ummm … OK … I guess I’ll give it a shot … could be coolish …
So yeah, I was stupid. Don’t be me. Or do be me, and be dubious, but try out Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem anyways and prepare to have your heart touched and your mind blown. Oh, and prepare to become a fan of artist Dave Wachter; because even if you haven’t heard of him before (like I hadn’t) you are going to find yourself wondering HOW you hadn’t heard of him and scouring around for other things he has done. I don’t care if you are reading the single issues. I don’t care if you are waiting for the trade—just read it.
So this third and final issue—no surprises; it is wonderful. And wonderful in the actual sense, as being “Full of Wonder.” The Golem has risen. The Nazis are here. There will be fighting. There will be death. There will be blood.
But I find I don’t really want to write about that, about the plot. With this last issue of Breath of Bones, what I want to write about is hands. How hands can be the most destructive, most devastating things on Earth, and also the most loving, most protective. Niles and Wachter focus a lot on hands in this final issue (did they in the previous issues? I don’t know. I’ll have to go check.) We see close-ups of hands in all of their myriad ways—a boy’s hand clutching a toy as a protective amulet. Hands pointing, issuing directions on where to unleash hell and death. Hands holding guns, transforming that hand into a weapon. Hands of clay with unnatural strength turning human bodies into liquid pulp. Those same hands become a shield of strength, a protector.
I don’t know if this emphasis on hands was intentional—I assume it must be—but it really made me think of the nature of hands, of strength. Of the duality of the ability to both destroy and protect residing in the same being, and how we all have that capacity within us. (Another weird thing—in Breath of Bones only the living have hands. Most of the dead are shown only as feet. Is there some meaning there? I don’t know.)
Dave Wachter draws great hands.
It’s that kind of thing that makes Breath of Bones more than just a good comic. It’s one of those rare stories that transcends mediums. The kind of comic I could give to my mother or co-workers or any other non-comic readers and feel confident that they would find something magical in it.
Everything in this book is just fantastic. Trust me on this. I’ll say it again. You really have to read it.