By Jonathan Hickman (East of West), Tomm Coker (Undying Love) and Michael Garland (The Manhattan Projects)
Based on the cover of issue #1 alone you might guess this book is about the occult, but from the cover of issue #2 you know this is a noir story as well. If you went on to read either issue then you know it’s also a comic that deals with global finance and the supernatural entities in power behind our collective economies. In this second issue you get a lot more of everything that Jonathan Hickman’s new series promises to be, but the best part may be the noir aspects of it. Moody scenery, gritty dialogue, characters you shouldn’t trust and a detective in a trench coat and fedora who, by all rights, is our go-to protagonist. Whether or not any of the characters in The Black Monday Murders is actually clean, it seems we can at least believe in Detective Dumas to try his best to solve the case. He just might be after something more than merely catching a murderer, however, it’s still unclear if he knows exactly what he’ll find the deeper he digs. We readers are intrigued by the possibility that he actually may have a clue.
It’s a Hickman book, so you’ll most likely have higher than normal expectations. For one thing the book is dense and all of the content, be it the actual comic pages or the filler between, brilliantly fleshes out this alternate reality. Beyond that, Hickman offers us dialogue that is as compelling as a full-blown action sequence. He provides one dynamic scene after another, pushing our expectations higher and higher with each panel. He knows how to write comics, but more than that he knows how to structure a series. If you weren’t totally sold after the first issue, then make a point to check out the second part because it takes the establishing foundation of the series premiere and runs with it faster than expected. Above all, part two leads us to believe there’s plenty more to come. But it’s the drama and the chance to follow Dumas around as he interrogates and investigates that holds your attention most. We learn just enough about everything to stay hooked, but it’s the character of Dumas that really makes this good.
Artist Tomm Coker — another big reason The Black Monday Murders is already a standout comic book — has his work cut out for him. One can only imagine how potentially daunting it is for him to receive these scripts. But darned if he doesn’t make it look easy as he rises to the challenge and creates believable people and places no matter how incredible the story gets. Coker keeps us grounded in the real world even when we are cast into the unknown. His version of horror is normal enough to really freak you out, because it feels so real world. His hard edges and heavy shadows depict images that could be mistaken for photographs at the right distance. That said, there is a genuine rawness to his style that gives the entire book an unnerving quality. That’s a good thing and his art is both charming and stylistic. That same uneasy feeling is further magnified by colorist Michael Garland. Garland masterfully paints the story’s emotional beats. His cues do more than tell us how and what to feel. Through his colors we experience fear, evil, distrust, even mystery and if not literally then in effect. Together both artist are sensational and make for the books overall brand identity.
It’s getting good and seems to be getting better, folks. The Black Monday Murders #2 is worth the cover price and proves the series has legs and stride.