“Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem” #1 has a nice story courtesy Steve Niles and Matt Santoro, set in the early days of World War II as the German army begins to draw nearer to a small village in France where our protagonist Noah lives. It’s the art by David Wachter, though, that is going to grab attention instantly and make readers desperate for more.
Niles and Santoro’s story is good, if a little slowly paced. Readers are introduced to Noah, who’s just young enough to not leave when the rest of the village’s men head off to war, and get an idea of what this mild-mannered, thoughtful boy is like. Niles’ script isn’t splashy but it doesn’t need to be; both Noah and his grandfather are soft-spoken but also determined individuals. Those hoping for lots of golem action (as the cover promises) will be a little disappointed, though, with the creature of Jewish legend having not yet made a proper appearance. It’s evenly paced, though, and it’s a pleasant read.
Wachter’s art, though, is just gorgeous. I’d seen it in “Night of 1000 Wolves” but having it in black and white for “Breath of Bones” makes me appreciate it that much more. There’s so much detail and care on every page. On the last panel of the prologue (set during the midst of World War II itself), Watcher doesn’t settle for just a few drops of rain to set the scene. Instead we get raindrops practically running down the side of the page, working beautifully with the ink washes to give you an image that actually looks wet to the touch. Then you add in those soulful and haunted eyes staring out at you, the smears of mud, and you end up with an image that takes your breath away.
And of course, that’s every single page. When Noah’s grandfather sneaks him into a secret room to give him his inheritance, the black clouds of ink make it feel like a truly dark room, one dimly lit with the lantern. It would have been easier to just use the computer to apply a uniformly black color all around the characters, but Wachter takes the time to give us a textured, painted look on the page that is far more interesting to look at. And that’s the sort of thing we get constantly. Why draw a simple stone wall when you can draw lots of individually shaped and sized stones instead? Why draw just a far-off image of a burning plane crashing when you can carefully draw every single lick of flame and plume of smoke instead? It’s dramatic, it’s beautiful, and it’s no small wonder that Wachter was a Russ Manning Award nominee last year.
“Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem” #1 has a nice story, and that’s a good backbone for the rest of the comic. But the art? Well, even if the story wasn’t good (which it is), I’d probably still come back. Keep an eye on Wachter. Whatever Wachter draws, I know I’ll want to read it. This is a gorgeous comic from start to finish.