by Stephen Hardman
Whether it be the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group, or other secretive groups of the super-rich and powerful, the idea that a very small percentage of the world’s population controls the majority of the world’s wealth is a pervasive one. Often dismissed as wild conspiracy theories the idea has taken greater hold since the most recent global banking crisis, the aftermath of which has been scant consequences for the people that caused it, coupled with devastating consequences for the people adversely affected by it.
Jonathan Hickman’s new comic for Image opens on Black Thursday, 1929, the day of the most devastating stock market crash in history. A small cabal of senior bankers are discussing the unfolding crash and the consequences to their organisation. They head up the Four Pillars of the Caina Investment Bank – The Watcher, The Ascendant Seat, The Scales, and the Stone Chair. These men have made sacrifices in their pursuit of wealth and power, becoming wildly rich in the process. It is not revealed what they have sacrificed but they have clearly made a deal with some outside, possibly supernatural power, and risk paying the ultimate price with their life if they are unfortunate enough to be occupying the Stone Chair when their benefactors come to take their pound of flesh.
A mysterious ghostly white figure oversees the sacrifice of the Stone Chair occupant, the wider implications of the crash being the sacrificial deaths of brokers and traders, unceremoniously ejected from high-rise office windows by their senior colleagues, willing to do anything in their pursuit of wealth.
The action shifts to the present-day and the investigation of the murder of Daniel Rothschild, one of the heads of the bank. The detective in charge of investigating is Theo Dumas, a classic figure in his trench coat trilby, using unorthodox methods and generally unnerving his colleagues. This first issue ends with Dumas, alone at the site of the crime, ruminating on the relationship between man and money. I’m very intrigued to see how Dumas’ role in this story progresses, as he is clearly destined for a run-in with the powerful bankers.
The Black Monday Murders is a dense, intricate, multi-layered reading experience. Hickman packs his pages with extra pieces of text, background information on the main characters, excerpts from fictitious websites, and faux-historical information. He cleverly uses names associated with the financial world, some more familiar than others such as Rothschild. In the first section of the comic the four main board members of Caina share surnames with real figures from the banking world. He also uses words which are connected in some way to the subject of money and wealth such as nomisma and hyperpyron, and appropriates them into his own fictional narrative. This clever use of language is a key trait of Hickman’s work and adds a depth that is rarely found in comic books.
A word about the artwork in this comic – superb. I wasn’t familiar with Tom Coker’s art before I heard about this title, but when I looked at the previews and checked out some of his earlier work I knew that I was in for a treat with this book. His ability to depict personality and emotion in Hickman’s characters is astounding. His rendering of the murder scene is compelling and graphic, and made all the more real by the perfectly balanced colours of Michael Garland, another new name to me.
I’ve read the first issue of The Black Monday Murders at least three times, and each reading has revealed new details and things I had previously missed. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this fantastic creative team are going to take this story, and I heartily recommend you get on board.
Stephen Hardman is a trainee Legal Executive Lawyer who currently resides in Bath, in the UK with his wife and their cat. Among other things he writes in his spare time. He is currently working on a novel which he hopes to finish soon, and he has written a few short stories as well, though has not had anything published. Yet. Stephen loves reading and is a huge crime fiction fan; George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen being particular favourites. He is an editor and contributor at the geek culture website Geeks Unleashed.
His obsession with comic books knows no bounds and he loves sharing news and reviews of all the great comic books and graphic novels being published right now. He also loves listening to music and seeing bands live, and is always seeking out new bands and musicians to obsess about.
You can catch him on Twitter @HardDaysWrite.