Review: THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1

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THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Tomm Coker, Michael Garland, and Rus Wooton
Published by Image Comics Comics
Release Date: August 10, 2016

Money talks, and so do the plentiful evil-doing characters in The Black Monday Murders #1. A lot. So, what are they discussing? Well, there’s a new Jonathan Hickman book on the shelves today, with gorgeous art by Tomm Coker, colors by Michael Garland, and letters by Rus Wooton, and the characters in The Black Monday Murders #1 are talking about their rise to power via dark cryptic channels. We’re talking pretty darn evil channels.

Clocking in at 40 pages, the debut issue of The Black Monday Murders is one whopper of a book. It’s positively filled to the brim with information about the underground cult/above ground financiers that have sold their souls to the evilest and blackest of magic to reach the riches they’ve gathered. The part of story takes place in the late 1920s, right before the Stock Market crash that left the United States facing one of the worst financial crises of its time. There’s a pretty gnarly and nefarious murder to be solved, all tentatively leading up to the financial disaster. The book also flashes forward to the more current day interweaving of the business baddies, teaching hordes of people what greedy tactics will promote their financial success.

I have a mixed feelings about the writing in this first issue, but most of the feelings are positive. To begin with, the story and plot are extremely interesting. Most things crypto-oriented, I’m there. Add in an interesting historical moment, and I’m there even faster. Hickman does a fantastic job in setting this story up. It’s extremely apparent how much thought and research went into this comic. I was amazed at the depths this first issue traced, each part separated by long, prosaic pieces of writing, diving ever deeper into the mythology behind this series. The thoughtfulness of the plot and the broodingly dark premise (driven by the gorgeous art) makes the complete package well-worth your time.

However, as much as I was interested in what was happening, I had a hard time following the who I was supposed to be caring about. The characters, for as well-thought out this book is, were lacking their own depth. The bad guys felt a bit unidimensionally dark, and I found myself missing out on who the true protagonist is here. I imagine the character development will come later, but I also know that sometimes Hickman’s books tend to be more plot-driven. I only hope that each character starts to become strong in their own right as the story progresses.

Tomm Coker is not a name I’ve been familiar with, but, after this, I sure am going to follow wherever he goes (or stay here for as long as this goes on as well). His heavily shadowed lines read well from panel to panel. His style is reminiscent of Sean Phillips, and his grizzly tone matches the noir story here perfectly. His art promotes an eerie sense of realism that goes hand-in-hand with the historical setting. His ability to capture the sly subtleties on the faces of Wall Streets most corrupted drove home just how dark this book is willing to get. On top of that, there were some panels stacked with characters, and I couldn’t believe the amount of detail he managed to clearly fit in. Michael Garland’s colors were a spectacular choice for this issue as well. The muted palette offered yet another realistic layer to the story. Even though this is a book mired in mysticism, the colors ground the visuals even more in their easy-to-read nature.

The Black Monday Murders #1 is a book the promises to drag you to hell in the best way possible. The mystery is already tightly wound, the magic hums on every page, and I’m geared up and ready for the next issue. While I’m looking forward to digging into the characters more, the premise and set-up of this book is well-executed visually and plot-wise.

The Verdict: 9.0/10

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