The Black Monday Murders #2
Words by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Tomm Coker
Colors by: Michael Garland
Letters by: Rus Wooton
I had a really difficult time jumping in on this one without having read the first issue. I was pretty much ready to call it a failure because it was just too existential. But after maybe the first half of the issue, which is extremely long at 55 pages, the narrative started to congeal. I’d pitch that the book needs to stay firmly rooted in the detective story of one Detective Dumas. Unfortunately, you do not get to see this character until almost halfway through the book.
I apologize, but my efforts to put this issue into a synopsis are a bit hindered by the book’s lack of integrity in its opening half. Near as I can tell, there are two families, sort of like the Illuminati, or maybe like the families in Dark Horse’s ongoing Cryptocracy, by Van Jensen. The saga of the rivalry of the families stretches across a good chunk of time, with opening scenes in Germany before the end of the Cold War, and today. Despite the span of time, neither faction’s characters seem to have aged. So we either have immortals or time-travelers. What is clear is that both sides of the conflict are immensely powerful, and have taken up as their core business in the 21st century, financial institutions, taking their war to Wall Street. Into this mess walks Detective Theodore Dumas, a NY cop with a brush of the occult in his family history. A man who has caught just a whiff of scent of something abnormal in the goings on of these two banks, and has some specific rocks he wants to turn over as a result.
While the beginning of the book was a bit rocky for me, it stabilized and then started to hum, bringing Hickman’s specific style of writing into perfect harmony with Coker’s art. I’d love to see Hickman take a writing turn at an episode of The Walking Dead. His rendering of the human condition juxtaposed against the macabre, the dark and unsettling, but just out of eye’s reach…he seems to do this excellently, regardless of what genre he is writing in. The Black Monday Murders is at its best when Detective Dumas is on-screen. The subtle manner by which Hickman intones that Dumas knows and understands more about this world behind the curtain than the inhabitants realize is sharp. I’m curious to see if Hickman keeps up one particular trend that pervades this title, and that is that whenever Dumas is present, his interactions with characters are always very intimate; always one-on-one, even when the two characters are surrounded by a large crowd. It gives the whole book this sense that it is a movie filmed with all shots in close and tight. It is a singular piece of work that Hickman is doing a lot with to make it clearly stand apart from what is going on elsewhere in the comics form today.
As I mentioned, Coker’s art is in perfect harmony from beginning to end. While I am a bit critical of the book’s opening, I cannot credit any of that to the art. Coker’s illustrations are nuanced in his craft, right from the start. More importantly, Garland’s colors are equally masterful in their presentation. While a lot of the book feels monotone when you first flip through, a look-back reveals that it is the slightest modulation of color gamut that presents night versus sunset versus day.
And I think that is how I feel about the book as a whole. That these are all masters of their craft, such that the slightest difference in how they lay pencil or brush on the page, the merest shift in dialog, yields a vastly different reaction to a given passage. And that it is so nuanced that you do not even detect exactly what it is that caused you to react or feel something different. The book is likely headed for greatness. The only thing needed is a bit more emotionally. Something that makes the reader compassionate about one of these characters so that they feel something whenever a tragedy might strike or a victory be gained. It’s a little thing, but it might be the small difference between excellent and superb.