Money is one of the most powerful forces in the world because it gives people the chance to live the life they want to lead. In certain situations it can be treated like a religion, with people doing whatever they can to earn more. Johnathan Hickman focuses on the cult-like effect money has with The Black Monday Murders: Vol 2. The graphic novel is set in a world where different banking firms control the world through magic, blood sacrifice and ruthlessness. A member of the wealthy Rothschild family has been murdered, leading to a brutal war between the firms.
On one side of the board of the Caina-Kankrin firm, led by Grigoria Rothschild who is searching for the killer of her brother. At the other end is Viktor Eresko, a power-mad tyrant from the older generation. While the two of them wrestle for control, an investigation is carried out by Detective Dumas and Doctor Gaddis. Both are looking into the Rothschild murder, yet the doctor is on the search for greater knowledge about the magic behind the banking firms.
“There were once other, younger gods who existed on the praise of believers and the offerings of their disciples, but that compact – its very nature – is fleeting…for man is fickle and easily confused. So they are all gone now – names forgotten – prayers lost to the ether, and all that remains is the divine machinery of the universe, and the one true god: He who consumes…I, Mammon.”
The search brings them to the Federal Reserve, revealed to be the altar of the god Mammon. This was one of the most thrilling parts of the story, as Mammon is shown to be a powerful deity who controls humanity through greed and money. Mammon allows the schools to exist because they create hunger in the world and he’s able to feed. Gaddis continues to ask Mammon questions, though the god is unable to tell Dumas who killed Daniel Rothschild, showing a lack of knowledge on his part.
The scenes between Dumas, Gaddis and Mammon are enlightening because they serve a world-building purpose. A lot of the graphic novel feels scattered, but the supernatural element ties everything together.
Meanwhile, Grigoria kidnaps Eresko, as she knows he was the one who killed her brother. The two of them step into ‘The Scales’ – a battle that rages on until a blood debt is paid. Grigoria comes out the victor, eating Eresko’s heart in one of the most visceral panels in the graphic novel. It references a belief that consuming your enemy allows you to take on their strength.
Later, Dumas visits Grigoria to tell her that he wants to join the Caina-Kankrin school. It was the kind of twist I didn’t see coming. Dumas started off as a righteous lawman who wanted to save lives. He was the kind of character that the reader could connect with on a basis human level. But over the course of the story he learned about Mammon’s influence until he became as corrupted as the people he investigated. Hickman showcases how money can make anyone fall from grace. It’s an alluring, addictive force felt through every page.
Every character in The Black Monday Murders is complicated, with Hickman demonstrating how strong women can be within a corporate environment. Grigoria’s journey is a compelling one as she ascends to the head of her school, eliminating all threats to her rule.
Tomm Coker’s art is nothing short of incredible. My favourite panels feature Mammon and his altar at the Federal Reserve. The overall creepiness of the art compliments the horror elements of the narrative.
I found Volume 2 of The Black Monday Murders to be an improvement over the first because the story felt more complete. The door has been left open for future tales of Mammon’s dark power and I’m looking forward to reading more in the future.