We go to work, we make our money. And for a large portion of the population we never actually see that money. It gets deposited into an account and from there gets distributed to other accounts – to pay rent, buy groceries, to keep the lights on. And when we want to buy a luxury item – for instance, a comic book – we use pieces of plastic or an app on our phone. It’s just an exchange of numbers and symbols. A shell game, a sleight of hand – an accounting trick – it’s like magic. That’s why when you’re really good at manipulating the numbers they call you a financial wizard.

In the Black Monday Murders, Johnathan Hickman takes this metaphor to its literal extreme. Soren Kierkegaard once said when speaking of free will, “The human being must choose between God and Mammon.” Johnathan Hickman asks – what if they’re the same thing?

The Black Monday Murders tells the story of an evil cabal of amoral, heartless stockbrokers – or in other words…stockbrokers – that essentially run a portion of the world by practicing black magic and making periodic sacrifices to a God…Mammon.

The system of magic used to do this is…complicated, and the details of their machinations are intricate. So much so that in order to truly understand it you would need charts and graphs and diagrams outlining the members of the cabal, their relationships, hierarchy, and history.

But don’t worry Hickman’s got you covered!

Now, Johnathan Hickman’s writing style has always been unique. He uses symbols and almost Kabalistic-like diagrams to punctuate his stories – but in Black Monday Murders Hickman actually out Hickman’s himself.

In addition to those charts and graphs and diagrams, he utilizes alternate literary techniques like emails, letters, and redacted documents to accentuate the typical panels of words and pictures. The result is a story that is dense and complex, but incredibly rewarding if you pay attention to the devil in those details.

Details are beautifully brought to life by the brilliant art of Tom Coker. It is gorgeous and grotesque. A gritty noir combined with a gruesome horror aesthetic overlaid with a veneer of a Wall Street slick shine.

But in the end – despite its intricacies and complications – the story is really just a murder mystery with supernatural overtones. Albeit one that hangs its central conceit on economic theory and a critique of Capitalism.

Black Monday Murders can be a bit daunting for first-time readers of Hickman’s work. And the sheer wealth of information being presented to you can be overwhelming. But the story being told is rich, its world-building extensive, and with a little patience and persistence, it will reap rewards in the long term.

This article originally appeared as the introduction to episode 82: Black Monday Murders.

The Collected Edition is a comic book podcast where the hosts discuss the famous and infamous runs and story arcs throughout the history of comics. Please subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, IHeartRadio, and Spotify.