God of Comics – The Black Monday Murders
Black Monday Murders (Image Comics)
I have a single issue with Jonathan Hickman as a writer.
He’s good; this is something that needs to be said off the bat. He’s got good-to-great concepts, an interesting pace that makes his work addictive, a decent ear for dialogue, and pretty decent characterization. His faults come when he’s working with other people’s characters and mythologies, but give him his own world and characters and you can feel the glee of his work seep off the page.
And I use the word seep intentionally. When left to his own devices he immediately veers off towards some pretty heady deep dives, and the Black Monday Murders is probably the best damn thing he’s ever written. It’s so good that I nabbed a copy for my economist brother because this is exactly the thing he should be reading.
So: the Black Monday Murders is about the people at the top of the economic food chain, the one percent of the one percent of the one percent. It’s become known that about forty families directly control something like sixty percent of the world’s wealth, and this comic looks at them and the god they worship.
As our world comes crumbling down, the hypocrisy of conservative and nationalist mindsets becomes more apparent; they are not looking to preserve anything beyond a misunderstood notion of a national identity or a faith that they have brutalized into something it was never meant to be, and Jonathan embraces that truth and runs with it.
Here, the old god Mammon is the stock market is economics, is power. The idea of wealth itself is power not as an end unto itself, but something that is so very much worse. Everything falls under Mammon, and the forty families understand this and thus harness a power that makes everyone else a slave. It’s just a few shades off from the real world and that is what makes this comic utterly terrifying and lends it much of its horror.
Not content with simple comic structure, Hickman has also worked in an entirely new language and references the personal correspondence of his characters, the things they have studied, and real-world oddities into a massive occult conspiracy that haunts because it feels real; this is brilliant horror, understated until it decides to draw back the curtain enough to show the reader something that cannot be forgiven or forgotten.
It takes a special artist to stick with that kind of passion and atrocity, and Tomm Coker’s harsh lines and detailed expressionism works well with Michael Garland’s faded colors. A special note must be made for Rus Wooten’s lettering, allowing Hickman to continue his assault with audio cues that whisper off the silent page and into the mind. There’s a language here, a rhythm that slithers, and it works because Rus makes it work.
I hadn’t heard of this comic until chatting with some people at Emerald City Comic Con, some at the Image booth and some outside of it. I picked up the first trade and eagerly await the second and cannot recommend it enough. If you like intelligent horror, a sense of dread stirred into a world that feels far too real, this is your comic. Here is the modern dystopia too many of us are living, and here is the call to fight.