The desire to earn more money is felt by many people, whether they want to become successful or afford new things. Currency makes the world go round and it could be argued that money is the root of all evil, but what if money was the root of all power for some? What if the urge to accumulate more wealth became a visceral need to dominate your fellow man? Such questions form the basis of Jonathan Hickman’s The Black Monday Murders Vol 1: All Hail, God Mammon. Money and blood go hand in hand and no price is too high for the characters of this dark and disturbing graphic novel.
The story focuses on the world’s banks being controlled by different cultist schools who are vying for power. What’s intriguing about the book is that it differs from other comics in that it features different methods of storytelling. There’s a mixture of police transcripts, dossiers and diary entries that complement the art. Hickman weaves a tale that rewards diligent readers. I found myself studying several of the diary pages to see how they fitted into the overall narrative.
“The first million dollars you make is self-financed. You earn it with your own blood. The cost is your health, your family, your friends. You pay, understand? The most common mistake is believing that you can accrue even more by continuing this behaviour. You cannot. If you’re going to earn more…if you’re going to earn real money – accumulate real power – then that is done on the backs of others. Call them workers, call them proles, even call them slaves. I do not care. Just know, it is they who you will sacrifice for gain.”
Different time periods are explored, with the book starting off with the 1929 Wall Street Crash and a stockbroker jumping out of a building. This sets the tone for the remainder of the story, as the cultists are shown to orchestrate financial collapses in order to extend their power base. A rivalry between the Eastern and Western schools is at the heart of the conflict, with the American Caina bank being considered one of the most powerful cartels in the world.
The Caina board is split up into four key roles: The Watcher, The Ascendant, The Scales and The Stone Chair. The Watcher is a teacher, The Ascendant is the leader of the academy, The Scales acts as balance and The Stone Chair is the sacrificial altar for when a blood price needs to be paid. The Caina board manipulate each other and everyone outside of the bank, so the reader is never sure who to trust.
“And who that profits ever believes a prophet? It’s what they do, detective. They keep you fed, maintain some semblance of justice and order – just enough for you to believe those things are real. Because who of the well-kept believes a madman talking about a burning earth and the long history of human sacrifice? Even when the ground shakes and blood runs in the street, they choose not to believe.”
When a member of the Rothschild family is brutally murdered, a detective called Theodore Dumas heads up the investigation. Dumas is a window for the the reader, navigating through the seedy underbelly of Wall Street. Soon enough he’s introduced to the supernatural side of the banks in a gory scene that makes him wish he never looked beyond the curtain.
Grigoria Rothschild is another interesting character. Banished from the Caina board, she returns to take her rightful place and strike back against the enemies who murdered her brother. Grigoria is portrayed as shrewd and calculating in a male-dominated environment. Hickman is definitely setting her up to be a major player.
Tomm Coker and is the artist and his panels are some of the most realistic I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect for the noir setting, with him relying on shadows and dark lines to create a sinister atmosphere.
Capitalism is a major theme of the graphic novel, being compared to human sacrifice. Currency is an altar that the strong worship at and the profit is worth its weight in violence. The Black Monday Murders is haunting, sinister series that every comic fan should check out. Buy it now on Amazon.