The stock market has, if you think about it, all the characteristics of a monster straight out of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s in every part of our lives and can change them in an instant, yet it’s utterly invisible and beyond control. It can only be seen in negative space, rendered out of constantly shifting numbers. Its workings are impossible to understand, and the havoc it causes is so brutal and random a motive is impossible to find. In The Black Monday Murders (Image) Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker ask a simple question: What if the stock market is a form of black magic worshipping a vicious god and the one percent are, quite literally, the priests caring for its temple?
Hickman has a taste for sprawling conspiracy thrillers, and at 52 pages, some of which are stories written in a crabbed typewriter font, this first issue is as sprawling as they get. But Hickman also gets specific and limits the mystery to the murders of the title, as he quickly fills in the blanks of a secret society that worships Mammon, and who run the stock market to feed him. Considering the book opens on the 1929 stock market crash, you can guess how badly things go when Mammon is displeased.
Coker is well suited to the story. His thick, scratchy inks give the tale an uncomfortable feeling that Mammon is about to reach out and take your wallet (and your soul as an afterthought). It packs the book with atmosphere and makes everything feel oddly more credible. The supernatural thriller is a well-trodden genre in comics, but Hickman and Coker are reinventing it with smart ideas and superb art, making this an unexpected and exciting book.
Flintstones #2, DC Comics
Fred and Wilma discover the “joys” of mindless consumerism, religious debates, and multi-level marketing in Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s hilarious follow-up to the witty first issue. Russell can be blunt: The opening of this book literally features a news anchor extolling the joys of buying useless crap you don’t need, and it’s literally called “crap.” What makes it work is the everyman characterization of Fred and the book’s ability to take the spirit of the cartoons and make it both darker and funnier. Fred is just like everybody else in this society, figuring it all out and unsure where he’s going to wind up, and that makes a goofy book about cavemen a surprisingly relatable comic.
The Accused, Marvel
In the midst of Civil War II, Marc Guggenheim delivers a one-shot that lingers on the difficulty inherent in doing the right thing, especially when “the right thing” is also something you’re going to have to live with. Guggenheim cleverly flips the legal drama on its head; Daredevil isn’t trying to free a falsely accused innocent man, but rather winds up trying to ensure the guy he wants to send off to lethal injection gets a fair trial based on the evidence, not meddling. It’s a welcome riff on a common Daredevil story, and a rare bright spot to come out of the largely dull Civil War II.
A&A: The Adventures Of Archer And Armstrong #6, Valiant
Rafer Roberts and Mike Norton send Archer and Armstrong to the circus. If this sounds like a fairly conventional, quiet day for most people, well, suffice to say the lunacy follows soon enough. What grounds Rafer’s wackier bits in the script is a mix of Norton’s clean, straight-faced gag work and the focus on characterization. Archer and Armstong are both struggling with personal conflicts, and it deepens the book while still letting it be fun. Besides, how could we not highly rate a comic book with a sniper bear?
Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special, BOOM! Studios
Boom gathers together a string of talented artists and writers, from Corey Godbey to Daniel Bayliss, to play inside Jim Henson’s elaborate, much-beloved fantasy world for a celebratory anthology. The book is, of course, adorable, and it feels much like a string of deleted scenes from the original movie. Especially if you’ve got a kid, or fondly remember the original movie, this anthology is a winner.
Superwoman #1, DC Comics
Longtime comics pro Phil Jimenez, perhaps best known for his 2000 run on Wonder Woman, returns with Superwoman. There are a lot of Superpeople running around the DC universe at the moment, and Jimenez makes the book stand out by focusing on Lois Lane and Lana Lang, the two women left behind by the death of a Superman. This being a comic book, there’s another Superman, from another reality, who’s married to an alternate Lois and has a kid, so you can imagine Lois has some emotions to work through, something inheriting some of Superman’s powers really isn’t helping.
While the book has plenty of superheroics, it ultimately works because Jimenez puts Lana and Lois front and center, and emphasizes what makes them unique and why we should care about characters too often written off as “Superman’s Girlfriend.” It’s some meat and potatoes stuff from a different perspective, and that makes it worth reading.