Review Brew: The Black Monday Murders #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Corker
The Black Monday Murders is one of those weird, rare stories that has to be seen to be believed. In retrospect, the plotline should have been obvious: it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to link 20th century capitalism to the occult. Yet here Jonathan Hickman’s done it, taking the metaphor of selling one’s soul and sacrificing the blood of others and transforming it into the real thing, as far as fiction goes.
The Black Monday Murders concerns a quartet of capitalists who certainly resemble the wealthiest of us and yet act like the worst of us. Are these demons, or simply immortal humans who’ve been conspiring over money since at least the 1920s? The story’s not clear yet. The little of the curtain that Hickman has peeled back reveals a dark quartet who seemingly caused the 1929 stock market crash for sinister purposes. The story then flips ahead to the near future, where it seems to be happening again, and a lone New York detective with a passion for the occult has taken an initial stumble into a much larger story.
Be warned: The Black Monday Murders is a dense story, blurring fiction and history so seamlessly that the reader will be left questioning what Hickman invented and what’s true. Indeed, Hickman and Corker work in various case file pages, website conspiracies, and historical tidbits about how major stock market crashes always happen in the same month as Halloween. I found myself googling the various names and websites that appear throughout the story, and while they’re not real, the storytelling is dense enough that it feels like they should be. (Even then, Hickman warns us in the early pages that truth is easily manipulated, and the reader will be left with chilling thoughts about how much history and “known” information is really true.)
Artist Tomm Corker is a good fit for this story, bringing a hefty realism to a story that begs for it. Michael Garland’s colors also aid in setting the tone, giving us a sepia-laden scheme for 1929 before shifting to a brighter-yet-grim pallet for the modern era. And lastly, Rus Wooten’s letters serve as an opportunity to really appreciate the role a letterer brings to a comic book. There’s more than just the story here, as The Black Monday Murders is interladen with typewritten file pages and genealogies that help build the mythology of the story. It’s truly an impressive interaction of the entire art team.
The only downside is that the plotline and the villains are still a bit thick. We’re new to the story, so of course the larger picture shouldn’t be clear yet. Nonetheless, the reader is going to have difficulty discerning what’s going on beyond “occultists are manipulating capitalism.” It’s good, but dizzying. Hopefully readers who stick around for the next issue will make sense of where it’s going.
Rating: Four mammon out of five.