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Jonathan Hickman delights in challenging the world’s elites. In his past independent works, he has taken on media conglomerates, religious empires, and more. In The Black Monday Murders, he finally puts his considerable skill and knowledge to work on the force which truly makes the world go ’round: money.
In many ways, The Black Monday Murders is Hickman getting back to his roots. He burst on to the scene in 2006 with The Nightly News, and since then has seen himself become one of the most coveted writers in comics. His first series pilloried media and picked apart the massive power structure which controls the vast majority of the world’s media enterprises. In this one, he returns to attacking those same power structures, but this time he’s hitting them in the pocketbook. The story revolves around the intrigues of a shadowy collection of financiers who control the global markets. It stars a New York Police Department detective with a fascination for the occult who sees the clues connecting a present-day murder to a mysterious death from almost ninety years earlier.
The first issue of The Black Monday Murders is incredibly dense. It clocks in at an impressive fifty-two pages, and none of those pages are wasted. A great many of them are devoted to Hickman’s trademark info-graphics, which are expertly employed to give the story a sense of reality. It is that reality which gives this book a tremendous amount of power. Much of what is characterized in the book as arcane machinations on the part of a villainous cabal is encrypted educational content on the inner workings of the global financial sector. The story is liberally sprinkled with the names of some of the most powerful people in the history of finance, from Richard Whitney to the enigmatic Rothschild family. Hickman manages to successfully ground the story in historical events, build up the larger mythology the story will work around, and introduce a sizable cast of characters. While few of them are fully formed by the end of the first issue, the fact that subsequent issues are set to carry the same page count ensures that there will be plenty of time for the readers to learn more about them. In the brief time we get with each character, Hickman does an excellent job of making each interesting, suggesting hidden motivations and intriguing pasts. Each is fashioned well enough that any of them would make a splendid subject for future issues.
On art, Tomm Coker makes a brilliant companion to Hickman’s script. There is a certain noir aesthetic to the entire work which works wonderfully. The story periodically flashes back to the events surrounding the stock market crash of 1929, and the grittiness and vertical hatch work which Coker utilizes lend even the present-day scenes a pulpy feeling which helps to tie the whole thing together. His characters are so well-articulated that readers who don’t care to do their own research can be forgiven for believing that they’re all based on real people.
On the whole, the debut of Black Monday Murders is incredibly strong. It’s packed with enough fact that the conspiracy theory at its core goes down smoothly. Anyone who’s trolled the darker corners of the internet is more than familiar with the names and ideas being employed by Hickman. The Rothschilds, the Cult of Mammon, and the idea of a secret society of power players controlling the world’s destiny are all familiar notes to the tinfoil hat crowd. It’s a tune with which Hickman is intimately familiar, and plays masterfully. The Black Monday Murders is Hickman’s most ambitious work to date, and if he doesn’t wind up dying mysteriously in a small aircraft crash before completing it, it should be amazing to see to its end.