The Black Monday Murders #1
By Jonathan Hickman, Tomm Coker, and Michael Garland
There are new comic book first issues debuting monthly, weekly even, all year long. There’s no shortage of new titles launching, so often in fact it’ll make your head spin, or your wallet empty. Each issue one could be considered a risk to your budget so it makes sense to go for the safest bets when deciding which new series to collect. You gravitate toward a favorite writer or artist, maybe the publisher, but even still you’re taking a risk with any new series. The Black Monday Murders is a new one that may be worth taking a risk on…it may not be, though.
If you read comic books, then chances are you’ve read a Jonathan Hickman comic. Hickman is one of the more prolific comic writers these days and even unintentionally you’re likely to have come across a book he’s written if not created. He’s one of those guys that’s saturating the industry currently, and seems to have unlimited new ideas. It may be hard to believe a guy could crank out so much material without the content feeling diluted now and then, but the majority of the time Hickman delivers the very highest quality. The latest results of his fecund mind, The Black Monday Murders, are no exception, assuming it’s your cup of tea. When a creator is as eclectic as Hickman there’s a chance not all of the books will land with the same readers. The Black Monday Murders may very well be the exact opposite of his well-established book ,The Manhattan Projects, which could disappoint the unrealistic expectations of some readers. However, it’s still a Hickman book and you could do a lot worse. So, if you’ve yet to have your fill of the guy then The Black Monday Murders might be worth your money.
This comic is dense and issue #1 does more than just set up the storyline, it introduces us to the format. Chapter breaks serve as plot devices filling us in on different elements and characters all while conveying the overall tone. (Hickman loves to do that stuff!) Described as crypto-noir, it feels heavily gothic, no matter the time period, and drop dead serious at that. The occult are running the global banking industry and shaping the world to suit the god they worship, Mammon the God of Money. It’s an interesting, fictional spin on real world problems that affect everyone, but that might be why it isn’t necessarily fun to read. Of course not all comic books need to be spirit-lifting, good-guy-always-wins formats, but don’t we get enough news about irresponsible fat cats and financial disasters as it is without comics? Likewise it might be our knowledge of financial markets, and their subsequent dilemmas, that make this new series interesting to us in the first place.
Either way you cannot deny that it’s one of the best books on the shelf this week, incredibly well written with art that makes you reach out for it. Tomm Coker has a realistic, cinematic style in which he can draw anything. He makes a college lecture as fascinating as a crime scene for a murder. Coker uses sharp lines and bold shadows all with a degree of grit that feels just perfect for this book. He never skimps on backgrounds and is able to pack everything in without it ever feeling cluttered. Even when it’s supposed to feel that way, Coker manages to design all of the various details in a way that makes sense and keeps it readable. After reading the first issue a couple of times it would be hard to imagine anyone else drawing this story. And, although colorist Michael Garland brings it all to life, this book would be equally valuable in black and white. But, it’s undeniable how well Garland does his part to flesh out this world with textures that complement the dynamic lines put down by the artist. He creates color stories that may otherwise be inviting, but here work more to turn your stomach, appropriately. His palettes, sickly yellows combined with depressing shades of brown and grayish blues, are like a soundtrack in that they let you know how to feel about a particular scene, but without forcing it. Most importantly Garland adds to the book’s sense of realism and the impending dread that increases with every page.
Fortunately there is a good guy – a classic noir story detective complete with hat and trench coat. He’s flawed from the outset but clearly the one person that can solve this mystery. The establishment is cracking and full of it’s own internal strife, which may help Detective Theo Dumas close the case, and then some. But will his discoveries spell his undoing? Time will tell, although, there’s more to this protagonist than meets the eye, which could allow him a glimpse behind the curtain. The question is, will he be able to do anything about what he finds there? Will the good guys, such as they are, come out on top or will the monsters in control of society retain their hold on power? You’ll like Dumas, and as of the first issue you may even be rooting for him. He’s a classic sort of everyman anti-hero that would save this book from too much doom and gloom.