The world needs more comics like Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, and more comics readers need to buy them. In an industry retrograding more and more into the quick-sale gimmicks that tore it down in the first place -- All New 52!! The Death of (Insert Character Here)!! Multiple covers!!! Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman having the Sex!!! Rape!! Murder!! -- Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem relies only on the ultimate gimmick; simple, beautiful, perfect storytelling.
I know it is premature to throw out terms like "potential Eisner winner" but I will say this -- Breath of Bones is Eisner-worthy.
Steve Niles, Matt Santoro and Dave Wachter have produced something special with this comic. Together, they achieved that rare sense of nostalgia for a world I have never known, a life I have never lived. Nostalgia by its very nature should be for something you have experienced, so to make me nostalgic for something so far and away from my life -- a small European Jewish village -- is quite the skill. It's an odd, quiet sensation that only some of the most accomplished storytellers can manage to pull off, like Will Eisner and Hayao Miyazaki.
One of my favorite things about Breath of Bones is how the tension is kept up without showing the enemy. Like some of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, we are put in a small space filled with people living under the threat of the invisible, faceless "other" (Embodied by the empty road that leads into town). The Monsters are due on Maple Street -- they are coming. It is only a matter of time. The Nazis will come. And what then? The villagers cannot fight, and have only two options -- run or hide.
But they cannot run fast enough, and hiding is made difficult by the arrival of a downed American pilot entering their village. Possibly, they can sell his life for their own, but then what would that make them? And who would be the monsters then? Niles, Santoro and Wachter fill this comic with some heady space, and I have no idea how I would react in a similar situation. Perhaps I would build a giant monster out of clay and will it to life.
I really can't say enough about Dave Wachter's art in Breath of Bones. He MAKES the comic. Because the story is so subtle, and relies on facial expressions, you need an artist who can breathe life into the paper with the same magic they breathe life into a giant pile of clay. Wachter has that. His lines, his ink washes, are just so fricken gorgeous. And I love his panel pacing. Read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics then see Wachter's panel pacing, and be astounded at his versatility and style. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. It's like European art with Japanese pacing.
So this is a review for issue #2, but what -- did you think I was going to give you a plot synopsis? This issue is as incredible as the first one, and I have no doubt that issue #3 will be equally brilliant. So go pick up the series and don't miss out on one of the best comics of the year.
Oh, and a endnote -- DIY master Steve Niles self-produced and sold 100 little golem figures that look exactly like the miniature golem in Breath of Bones. I am happy to say that I bought one of the 100, and it goes on a special place on my bookshelf. That was a VERY COOL way for Niles to promote the series, and show just how fun and innovative creator-owned stuff can be.
Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #2 drops 7/10/2013.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.
I usually don’t address rumors but this one bothers me on a variety of levels. Mostly, that I found out a fellow writer who I confided in has been the one spreading the rumors. We hung out and talked, and now I hear he’s been telegraphing everything I said.
Anybody who’s close to me knows I’m sober now. I don’t drink or do drugs. I used to. I used to, a lot, from about the age 15 to when I finally stopped in my 40’s.
I can’t do anything about my loudmouth friend. He has his own issues. I figured out it was him when I spoke to another pal, a writer, also sober, who is friends with this yappy fellow. I said something about enjoying being sober and there was a long silence. Didn’t take long to connect the dots.
Funny though, the last couple times I heard from him he wanted me to get him pot. People are funny.
Here’s the thing, I LOVE being sober. I love, love, love it. I feel better, I have more energy and fun and I very rarely have to apologize for my behavior anymore. I have had more fun in the last few years then I ever had. Probably because I’m really feeling everything for the first time.
Even writing is more fun for me now. I had that stupid idea that once I sobered up I wouldn’t be able to create art. It’s so not true. I can’t speak for the quality, that’s up to you, but I am much happier with my work the last few years.
And this brings me to the next thing…
I don’t think people mean anything, but when I go to a bar (usually at cons where all cons wind up) and I’m fine standing there and talking, inevitably somebody wants to buy me a drink. When I politely say I don’t drink, I get one of two reactions… “Aw, come on, have one with me!” or they look at me sadly like I just told them I have terminal cancer.
If I had my way AA would be called Fuck Yeah Sobriety. To me sobriety is something to be celebrated not scorned or sad about. Sober people have fought long and hard to stand there and say they don’t drink. Instead of sadness or badgering try saying congratulation.
I have no problem with people drinking or whatever around me. Most of my close friends drink. I respect what they do and they respect what I don’t do. Very simple.
For a long time I would actually order a fake drink ala Bruce Wayne to ward off the shot buyers but I realized I was playing into the shaming. I was afraid people would judge me. Now I know better.
Just so we’re clear. I’m far from perfect. I slip and I’ve fallen. I have small relapses and big relapses, but each time it gets easier to get back to where I want to be.
Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest.
My name is Steve Niles and I’m an addict and I love being sober more then anything in the world.
Fuck Yeah Sobriety.
I heard yet another story of a young woman being harassed while trying to buy comics yesterday. A girl told me she went in a shop to get Breath of Bones and the idiot behind the counter said "Are you sure you don't want My Little Pony?" Then idiot 2 chimed in with "Wonder Woman's in the back."
I hear these stories too often. Stories of girls getting quizzed on comic knowledge, inappropriate comments etc.. These sexist power trips. If anything like this happens to you at a store PLEASE tell someone. Tell me and I'll make sure the owner of the store knows how their customers are being treated.
So tired of these sexist idiots in comics.
Please grow up. If you can't do that, fuck off.
Hello! Today the legend of the Golem comes alive in Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #1. I’m very proud of this one. Dave Wachter’s art is stunning.
Getting to work with my buddy Matt Santoro is always great. This is just one of those projects where everything fell into place. I hope you can check it out and I hope like it!
Reviews have been coming in great too. Here's a selction of some of them:
"Breath of Bones looks to be one of the best comics I will read this year. Based on this first issue, it's a complicated, heartwarming and heart-wrenching story with a depth of feeling I don't see in a lot of comics. It's beautiful." - Comics Bulletin
AND... we still have some Golem Totems left in the store. They are flying fast!