Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #1
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist/Cover: Dave Wachter
Publisher: Dark Horse
Besides an early action sequence that acts as a framing device so the main character Noah can tell his story, there
War comics are a tough sale in today’s comic market with DC’s Men of War, G.I. Combat, and Blackhawks all getting cancelled. Despite being written by 30 Days of Nights’ Steve Niles and marketed as a horror comic, this is a straight-up war comic documenting the horrors of war in a small Jewish village in Poland through the eyes of a young named Noah and his world-weary grandfather. This comic reads like a memoir and paints a very realistic picture of life near the front during World War II. There is fear with an undercurrent of hate and anger in the faces of the book’s characters in the reaction towards the atrocities done by the Nazis to their country and people. The world “monster” is used several times in the issue, and each time it refers to a human being.
Wachter’s art does the heavy-lifting of the story, which has minimal dialogue and narrative captions. He focuses on Noah and his grandfather’s facial expressions as much as a British plane crashing in the Poland countryside. The reader can feel the emotion through his pencils as Noah sits watching his father march away and sits again on top of sandbags waiting for him to return. Most artists would employ vibrant colors for this countryside scene, but Wachter uses various shades of grey and white to illustrate the hopelessness of Noah’s situation that he begins to realize throughout the book. Even though this is technically a black and white book, Wachter only uses black for big moments, like the gunshots at the beginning of the issue and the plane crash. His work is a study in light and shadow, hope and despair.
The plot of Breath of Bones: A Tale of Golem #1 isn’t very exciting, but it is an insightful war memoir that peers into the souls of ordinary people who endured the horror that was World War II. Instead of getting a supernatural creature to create fear, Niles uncovers the fear within all humans who experience war and loss. Despite these deep themes and Dave Wachter’s art, this issue is still just set-up and would read better in trade as a full story.