Panelology is a weekly podcast about comics. We talk about current books, what we're looking forward to, and how to get into reading comics in the first place.

The Black Monday Murders: Volume 1 (Image Comics, 2016; #1-4)

Somewhere, I suspect that there is a human being capable of describing The Black Monday Murders in a way that makes it sound as interesting and engaging as it is.  Here are my best attempts:

  1. It’s like Harry Potter, if different wizard schools were banking conglomerates led by devil-worshiping investors.
  2. It’s part murder investigation and part dark magic conspiracy theory, told through comic pages, letters, and charts.
  3. It’s a secret history of the world’s financial crises that equates the cost of doing business with the cost of black magic—blood.

None of these is a very good description of the book on its own.  Each is accurate, but as is usually the case with Jonathan Hickman’s writing, there are a lot of moving pieces.  It’s easier to talk about the book’s tone—dark, sinister, foreboding.  With power so concentrated among schemers who have their own agendas and only a detective and a college professor interested in getting to the truth, doom seems inevitable.  It’s hard to tell whether Hickman is writing this as a warning or fictionalized history of the last century.  In either case, it’s fascinating and terrifying.

Tomm Coker and Michael Garland’s art is integral to its tone and tension.  It’s a combination of clean figure-work; rough, shadowy detail; and a palette that punctuates a dismal world with nightmarish fire.  It contributes to the story’s sense that this world is doomed.

This is not a feel-good book.  Hickman’s work often deals with themes of the powerful making decisions out of greed or pride that doom everyday people who don’t know what’s going on.  What makes The Black Monday Murders different is its narrow focus and intricate plotting.  It may be grim, but it’s an engaging read and worth seeking out.  

Collected in

  • The Black Monday Murders, Vol. 1 (#1-4)


Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artist: Tomm Coker | Colorist: Michael Garland | Letterer: Rus Wooton

Batman: Earth One: Volume 1 (DC Comics, 2012; OGN)

Runaways: “True Believers” (Marvel Comics, 2005; #1-6)