REVIEW: The Black Monday Murders #8- “Balancing The Lesser Scales”

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #8 / Writer: Jonathan Hickman / Artist: Tomm Coker / Colorist: Michael Garland / Letterer: Rus Wooton / Cover: Tomm Coker / Image Comics / Feburary 14th, 2018

Man, I have the worst luck with my titles right now. Once again, I am jumping in at the end of an arc and since The Black Monday Murders is a 12 issue series being released in 4 issue chunks, it also means I am jumping in right before a timely hiatus. None of this ultimately matters though, because Jonathan Hickman gives his readers so much to chew in this final issue before the hiatus.

Last issue saw the blood feud between the Rothschilds and the Ereskos come to a head when Grigoria Rothschild sent her familiar after Viktor Eresko, for the murder of her brother. The murder of Daniel Rothschild is the event that kicks the series off and the outcome of the blood feud this issue gives a nice sense of conclusion to the initial story-line. Viktor Erekso is one of the most intimidating villains in comics in quite some time, a man who exudes power and knows how to use secrets to draw people in and then make them his puppets. Grigoria and Viktor both come from the same world, where money is literally power, yet have drastically different views. They play their parts as each other’s antagonist so well, but the series eliminates one of them as it circles in on the God Mammon, as the true antagonist for the series final arc.

Not only is a key character eliminated, but several other of the periphery players are brought into the fold by the issue’s end. Detective Dumas, the first character followed in the present timeline of 2016, is the last character we check in with, reinforcing that sense of closing out the opening acts. Another character only hinted at in dialogue and flashbacks finally makes his present day appearance in the epilogue; I am usually used to waiting a lot longer for Hickman’s stories to start paying off so the pace of this issue excites me. Despite this, some part of me worries that four issues is not quite enough space to wrap up the story of this compelling universe, but Hickman’s early issues were nearly sixty pages in length so we could potentially be looking at another 240+ pages of story in the final arc.

Jonathan Hickman may have some awful luck when it comes to his comic books getting released, but the man sure knows how to pick his artistic teams. Tomm Coker, Michael Garland, and Rus Wooton are a powerhouse of an artistic team. The Black Monday Murders universe is one where powerful men and Gods operate in the shadows. It is full of intrigue, violence, and quite frankly, a lot of white people. Coker’s art has a gritty feel, with a lot of sketch lines and a real weight to the characters as they interact within this world the creative team envisions. In an universe full of complexities, I feel clean figures would be an odd fit so the complexities of Coker’s art is a perfect fit. Michael Garland’s colors bring shadows to life and his blood and gore casts violence in a particularly unpleasant light. There is a real dichotomy to his color palette that makes his characters stand out against the shadows. The distinction Garland gives his light sources, both the natural and the unnatural, is simply sublime.

Rus Wooton is a real MVP, with Hickman’s scripts tailored in ways that utilize the letterer in a way most comic books do not. Anybody familiar with Hickman will know his well documented love of white pages with very minimal text and his love of alien languages; both are on full display here. Wooton does some interesting things with the alien text to indicate their may be more than just one language of unknown origin at work here. Where Wooton is really utilized is on redacted pages, where Wooton crosses out words in such a way that the secondary message of a script is brought to the forefront. These redacted pages come in a variety of ways, from emails to government agency reports, and Wooton does a great job in distinguishing the different formats from each other.

The Black Monday Murders is also a universe full of magic, tied to the languages gifted to humanity by Mammon. The use of power has been rather subtle until this issue, but here it is full of bombastic force. This issue involves a blood challenge, known as the Balancing of The Scales, which is a challenge issued in blood. Astute readers will notice that the blood used to issue the challenge comes from Eresko’s students of Kankarin from the first issue, which is an awesome detail by Coker I missed the first time through. Much in the same way Wooton colors his level to indicate different forms of languages, Garland colors the visual uses of power with drastically different tones. The explosive almost neon red glow of the Scales creates a visually exciting battle where nothing really happens. This issue really is something to behold.

The Black Monday Murders is one of my favorite series right now. I have long admired how Jonathan Hickman can work complex ideas into his dialogue in subtle clever ways, but that is nothing compared to a universe where Hickman brings all his complexities to the forefront. The artistic team is the perfect fit for this universe, bringing visual complexity to the world.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 Hungry Gods

Shaun Martineau is a young Canadian father and undergraduate with a BA in Cultural Theory and Creative Writing. He has reviewed Marvel titles for nine years but broke away in 2017 to focus more on smaller publishers like Aftershock, Black Mask, and Action Lab.

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