I miss Thee Comic Column here on Joup. I really do. And while I haven’t had a chance yet to bother our own Shawn Baker regarding his recent absenteeism from his critical and cultural evaluations of comic books and graphic novels on these digital pages, I’m hoping that my own foray into cheerleading a new illustrated property will perhaps ignite the fires again for him. All gentle urging aside, I probably would have written this essay even if Shawn’s column were still going strong.
There are generally only a couple of books any given year that get me super excited (think Saga, or East of West, or Fatale), and 2016 has finally given me the big one. So, let’s dive into The Black Monday Murders, the latest Image series from Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker.
“ALL HAIL GOD MAMMON.”
Opening its panels on the cusp of the 1929 stock market collapse, The Black Monday Murders begins with a mysterious cabal within the walls of Wall Street, mentions of bargains, rituals, and the occult, a strange woman speaking a strange language, and an investment banker who spontaneously bleeds. The market crashes. Sacrificial lambs are slain. And bankers leap to their deaths from open windows.
Flash forward to October of 2016, and we’re presented with a ritualistic murder within the same bank from a century earlier, a New York homicide detective who practices in the occult (he rolls literal bones to see the future), the same(?) strange woman speaking a strange language, and a familial lineage of bankers and CEOs involved in decades of intrigue, malfeasance, and death.
Hickman is creating a decades-spanning story here, spinning a tale of money, magic, and murder (forgive me for the alliteration there) that feels equal parts Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, 1970’s Satanic horror movie, and hard-nosed detective pulp. It’s instantly engaging in its cryptic storytelling and initial noir “whodunit” setup, and due to the timely nature of the mood and themes, it also feels important. Of course bankers and hedge fund managers sold their souls for riches and are in alignment with the devil, or demons, or some otherworldly old gods…that’s why they’re such bastards. In the eight years since the housing bubble burst, The Black Monday Murders looks to be a scathing indictment, metaphorically or not, of the inherent avarice within humanity, and the greedy, nasty old men who profit from it.
Beautifully complementing the story is the wonderful layout and design of the panels and pages. Coker’s art has a shadowy, quasi-realistic feel to it that brings the narrative to life, and manages to breathe a certain amount of impending dread into each image. There are also several pages of text and info-graphics that add even more texture to the book, providing bits of background data, cryptic foreshadowing, and layers of back story that I hope are mined throughout the course of the series. I’m not sure how many issues this comic is supposed to be, but the setup in the first issue alone gives hints at what could be an enormous and fascinating fictional world, one that I would love to explore and get lost in on a monthly basis.
It feels like Hickman and Coker have the beginning of something special here, and as the summer begins to fade, and the days grow shorter, giving way to autumn and then Halloween, it should prove to be the perfect literary and visual elixir to sate your horror needs. I can’t wait for the next issue.
Shawn, the ball’s in your court. Bring back Thee Comic Column for your devoted readership out there (and for me too). Bring it back with new numbering, rebooted characters, variant holographic foil covers, or more. And maybe expand and improve upon my look at The Black Monday Murders while you’re at it.
From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.