Jonathan Hickman’s The Black Monday Murders is still within its set-up stage, as the second issue’s current events picks up shortly after the first issue ended. In typical Hickman fashion, the dense (55 pages!) issue attempts to present a lot of information, but unlike so many others, The Black Monday Murders #2 never feels bogged down or slow. In fact, it reads very much like a meticulous puzzle whose rules and pieces are being presented to us.
The issue bounces between current events and events in 1985, as the scene is further set out for us. Just when you thought the mythos at play couldn’t get any deeper or more bizarre, we see a familiar group (and a few unknowns) traversing to what appears to be a hall of Mammon, located within the Berlin Wall. As the Eastern and Western economists meet, of course they would do so in the ultimate symbol of division. Hickman’s use of real history and objects lend an unnerving air of truth to his tale, which makes the story even more intriguing.
In the current time, Grigoria Rothschild has ascended and taken the rightful Rothschild seat, though it’s unclear what, exactly she requested in her demands. Hickman brilliantly knows just how much information to feed the reader, through a series of blacked-out documents that promise the full story. Several of her demands were approved, but one mysteriously remains hidden from us.
No more mysterious than her meeting with Detective Dumas, however. It’s tempting to write it off as a simple cat-and-mouse, “know your enemy” moment, but it feels a little deeper than that. Rothschild appears to be goading Dumas into further investigating, thus luring him further into the world. It’s interesting, too, that she recognizes within him the power that was so heavily hinted at in the first issue. I do so enjoy stories when people instantly recognize one another as adversaries, rather than the author forming an elaborate pretense of cluelessness. In fact, one thing I’m enjoying about the denizens of Caina Investment Bank is how casually they hide in plain sight. The exchange with the security officer might be my favorite exchange of the series thus far.
The most intriguing moment, however, comes in the form of a letter from the deceased Rothschild (the twin brother whose seat Grigoria has taken) to his son. Just when I felt I was starting to understand Hickman’s rules for his world, this letter shows me that I have not yet begun to understand. Up until that point, I thought there was an uneasy but necessary truce/peace between the families on the Wheel, but this makes me think there is anything but. The only thing I’m certain of, now, is that the coming issues are going to get much bloodier than the first.
There is so much going on in The Black Monday Murders, it could potentially be difficult to keep track of it all. Thus far, the formatting and style has made that somewhat easy, but as with most conspiracy stories, it could be easy for this story to teeter too far into the conspiratorial abyss. Hickman’s prowess and previous stories are the only thing giving me confidence that this won’t happen. The Black Monday Murders is, so far, one of my favorite comics of 2016, but only if manages to maintain the grounded feel of this supernatural tale.