Ritualistic noir murder
You don’t have to be a news junkie or a conspiracy theorist to know the world of international high-finance is a dark and shady place. But what if the blood on the hands of the power brokers and dealers wasn’t just metaphoric? What if something more horrific than human nature contorted by greed was at play and the blood was literally dripping down the halls of the august institutions of world banking?
Such is the meat and gristle behind writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Tomm Coker’s seminal crime-noir story The Black Monday Murders, subtitled A Story of Human Sacrifice. The complex multi-layered plot is told through a unique combination of traditional panels, diary entries and case files where text has been blacked out, leaving a twisted story of omission.
Coker’s stark, bleak art slithers off the pages pulling the reader ever deeper into a world where everything comes at a price and cash alone won’t pay the bill. The back story weaves through 300 years of murky financial history where several families and institutions have waged constant war between each other and themselves to reach the pinnacles of power and what it takes to stay on top.
The quirky storytelling and some of the esoteric mumbo-jumbo can be confusing at first, but the threads get pulled together quickly plowing ahead at a steady potboiler pace. There are deep philosophical musings on the nature of money, power, greed and the deceptions necessary to uphold them, but it’s a crime story with classical pulp roots at its heart.
Detective Theodore Dumas, a cop with a haunted past only alluded to in the first volume, is called in on a high profile ritualistic murder of Daniel Rothschild. The young scion of the banking clan was left bound and dangling in his Wall St. office with his throat cut as a gruesome message. This leaves his estranged twin sister Grigoria and her enigmatic bodyguard Abby to step in and fill the power vacuum.
Armed with a cryptic clue found scrawled in the victim’s blood in an ancient mathematical language at the crime scene, Dumas must solve the mystery where the high-rolling participants are used to operating in a stratum beyond the normal rules of conduct. People considering themselves above the law and outside of its reach because they are wealthy enough to be nations unto themselves. Dumas is quickly chasing leads that drag him down to depths far outside his considerable comfort zone.
During a climactic scene while interviewing a prime suspect, the Russian suit in custody calmly grabs his lawyer’s pencil and thrusts it through his own hand, seeming to cast a spell causing the hapless lawyer to smash his head repeatedly against the desk until dropping, forcing a shocked Dumas to ask, “What the hell just happened?”
“A man asked me for the truth,” he answers. “So I leaned over and whispered it to him. Let’s see what he does with it now.”
“All Hail God Mammon” collects the first four issues of the ongoing Image Comics series in one insidious package complete with the usual bonus features. While the occult mystery continues with issues five and six already on the shelves, readers will have to wait until early 2018 for the next trade paperback to come out.
The Black Monday Murders Vol. 1
(All Hail, God Mammon)
Image Comics, $19.99 USD