Joe Golem and the Drowning City (2018-2019) Reading Order

Joe Golem made his debut in the illustrated novel ‘Joe Golem and the Drowning City’ by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden. But the duo decided to build on Joe’s history in four comic book mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics, with the latter two – The Drowning City and The Conjurors – interpreting the novel in comic form. The adventures of Joe Golem are considered to be part of Mignola’s Outerverse comics universe, with the Drowning City a result of Lord Baltimore’s final battle with the Red King.

Joe is a man who remembers little of his past and is plagued by dreams of a Golem. He acts on behalf of former-detective Simon Church whose mechanical heart and use of magic have kept him alive for around a hundred years. Joe investigates occult activity in a flooded New York City – dubbed the Drowning City – and with strange fish-men and seen the effects of Dr Cocteau’s attempt to contact the Outer Dark. Now it’s September 1975, and Dr Cocteau is making his ultimate bid to contact the Elder Gods

When an issue contains multiple stories, the relevant story is denoted with square brackets. For example [2/5] refers to the second story of the five stories in that issue, so you don’t need to read the other four. 

Want to keep it simple? Here’s the chronological reading order without story descriptions, or spoilers:

  • Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #1-5
  • Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #1-5

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Title & Issue NumberSynopsis & First Appearances
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #1Felix Orlov – aka Orlov the Conjuror – is woken by a recurring dream of his mother giving violent birth to him, surrounded by occultists using Lector’s Pentajulum. The séance he performs later that day goes horribly wrong and he starts to burn and mutate. The gas mask-wearing agents of Dr Cocteau burst in and take Orlov, but his assist Molly McHugh escapes. Former private investigator Simon Church sends Joe to the scene, sensing occult activity. He saves Molly who falls unconscious. Under Manhattan, Dr Cocteau tells Orlov of his plan to find the Pentajulum so that he can contact the Outer Dark
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #2Molly wakes in Simon Church’s strange home and he explains he’s watched Orlov for many years having been present at the moment of his birth. The younger Church and his allies killed the occultists and saved the infant Felix Orlov. Joe searches for clues to track down Orlov and is knocked unconscious by Gas-Men. His recurring dreams of the witch-hunting Golem return until he’s pulled from the water with more questions than answers…
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #3Underground, Cocteau sees Felix in his fully mutated form. Above, Joe returns home and demands answers from Church who gives him more memory-suppressing tea. Church admits to Molly that he’s been hiding the truth from Joe that the Golem ‘dreams’ are actually memories. Joe & Molly take a boat to the grave of Orlov’s mother. They also find the grave of Andrew Golnik, her killer. The occultist’s corpse is inside a tree which attacks Joe while drawing Molly towards Golnik’s corpse…
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #4Church’s mechanical heart begins to fail him. His attempt to go and find Joe is immediately thwarted when he collapses before leaving his home. At the graveyard, Joe shoots Golnik’s corpse, frees Molly and finds the Pentajulum in Golnik’s rib cage. They’re immediately se upon by Gas-Men who shoot Joe several times and take Molly…
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #5After another Golem dream, Joe wakes and drags himself through the rain-soaked graveyard after Molly and the Gas-Men. They take her aboard their submarine, so Joe grabs on to the outside as it submerges below Manhattan. Joe holds on for longer than should be possible, but he eventually lets go and sinks. His skin cracks, revealing another form beneath…
Title & Issue NumberSynopsis & First Appearances
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #1Aboard the sub, Molly fights back and frees herself, but is overwhelmed by Gas-Men. The surge in occult power shatters Church’s pendulum. Ghosts of his previous assistants came to encourage Church to allow Joe his rest. Below Manhattan, Cocteau tells the constantly-mutating Orlov how Simon Church killed his occultist parents.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #2Church ignores the ghosts and casts a spell to encourage and empower Joe to rise from the waters and revert to his older ‘programming’. Church dies. Molly recalls how Orlov found her and took her in. The Gas-Men deliver the Pentajulum to Cocteau and Molly sees Orlov in his disturbing new form.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #3In the 15th century, the young Crina Cojacaru – a friend of the Golem – takes it upon herself to hunt the witch that killed her grandfather. Now, in 1975, Joe is back in Golem form and he recalls helping Crina kill the witch. Cocteau reveals to Molly that he’s willing to let humanity die if it means he gets to fulfil his destiny and learn the truths of the universe. He will use Orlov to summon one of the Old Gods. The Golem emerges in the chamber and fights the Gas-Men. Cocteau prevents Molly from leaving so she can witness his ascension to the Outer Dark to become a god…
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #4In the 15th century, Crina Cojacaru offers to take over the role of witch-hunter to allow the Golem his rest. She names the Golem Josef after her grandfather. Now, in 1975, Molly and Cocteau fight over the Pentajulum while the Outer Dark seeps into the tank that contains Orlov as it starts to crack. The creature that was Orlov breaks and the chamber floods. The creature breaks up through to the surface and Cocteau tries to control it with the Pentajulum as Molly can do nothing but watch…
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Conjurors #5The waters of Manhattan rise along with the creature that was Felix Orlov. Molly snatches the Pentajulum and tries to use it to encourage Orlov to leave this plane. The Golem rises and activates the Pentajulum, sending Orlov to the Outer Dark then crushing the artefact. Orlov takes Cocteau up towards the portal, but it closes on him, slicing him in half. With apparently no memory of having been human, the Golem accepts the name ‘Joe’ when Molly speaks it, then leaves to hunt witches. Encouraged by Church’s ghost, Molly agrees to track Joe down and remind him who he is.

Title & Issue NumberEvent / Crossover
The Golem Walks Among Us! #1-2 (2021)
An untold tale of the Golem is revealed as he battles witches and monsters in Northwest Italy in June 1938; flashbacks reveal he continued to fight witches alongside Carina Corcaju for at least a little while after she named him ‘Josef’.
Cojacaru the Skinner #1-2 (2021)
An untold tale reveals that the spirit of witch-hunter Crina Cojacaru is summoned by white witches to fight Noon Witches in Poland in September 1938.

See how this story fits into the wider Outerverse with this reading order:

Reading Order ©OmniverseComicsGuide 2023

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