by Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.
Hunter S. Thompson
Ryan D: If there’s one incredible thing about being a comic reader nowadays, it’s that we are privy to so many new worlds being built, month to month, in front of us. In a time when so much of Hollywood’s machinations revolve around rehashing existing properties, comic books (alongside maybe the slew of Netflix-style originals) lead the charge for the new and exciting. When encountering one of these new universes, it’s always interesting to see how we are introduced to the mechanics inherent in them. How much does the creative team tip their hand as issues progress? Black Monday Murders 8 shows us how confident writer Jonathan Hickman is at keeping both the audience and its characters on the edge of this world.
After the excursion of last issue following Prof. Gaddis and Detective Theo Dumas to meet the Lord of Avarice, Mammon, itself, this issue brings us back to the cliffhanger ending of number six featuring Ria’s familiar, Abby, trapping Viktor Eresko, bound and gagged and surrounded by the bloody markings of a macabre ritual. Now, with Marco and Bea at her side, we see Ria’s plan come to fruition, and it is a high-stakes one at that. The issue revolves around the balancing of the “Lesser Scales”, the ones of personal vendetta between the two. Ria demands recompense for the murder of her beloved brother Daniel at the hands of Viktor, whereas Viktor wants to absorb the rest of the Rothschild’s generational power and avenge the death of his beloved. The terms are laid bare, agreed upon, and the battle commences.
What’s funny is that this combat is no more, really, than a wizard’s duel, but I’ve never really thought of this comic as a “magical” one. While the idea of blood as currency and satanic pacts runs through the title since the beginning, there have never been any magic wands or proper spells being cast, more just the occult stirring the pot of this world. Here, though, we finally see the magic tapped into and utilized, but from a slight distance. Hickman and artist Tomm Coker keep us on the outside of the fight. We see this encounter through the eyes of the horrified and worried pair of Marko and Bea. Bea’s the audience surrogate, and Marco elucidates:
Though Marco may understand the rough inner-workings of this engagement, he, Bea, and the audience all sit out at the edge. There may be an infinite, otherworldly plane being tapped into, but we can only observe it from here. We get to see the curtain, but not pull it back. The only character in control here is Ria, who stands isolated in her stalwart, unflappable dominion.
And Ria asserted her dominion over the most visually powerful character in this title so far. I’ve gushed about how Coker draws Viktor so many times that I’ve lost count, but this time we see a new side of the Russian oligarch. Colorist Michael Garland consistently shrouds Viktor in impenetrable shadow. We can count on one hand the times in which we’ve actually seen his eyes. But now, the man who Daniel Rothschild described as “stinking of power”, at the height of his rage, sheds both his clothes and his shadows to stand fully exposed:
Viktor’s eyes broadcast loathing and a contemptible strength. He stands, nude, at once solid, the kind of guy you think, in a dust-up, “where would I even hit that guy if I had a free shot?”, his dense tangle of pubic hair as impenetrable as his will, while also being visibly past his prime, soft, his off-kilter stance perhaps betraying his deeply-help bravado. His vitriol assures that the result of the duel is not a foregone conclusion and keeps the stakes high.
Which makes it all the more telling when Viktor loses, and Ria stands tall over his body before eating his heart, almost unaffected by what should be a monumental moment. Her power and resolve seem beyond reproach. Ria holds the keys, and everyone else is on the edge. This includes Detective Dumas who, a few weeks later, confronts Ria with what he learned in the bowels of the Federal Reserve at the feet of Mammon. Instead of rebuking Ria with his newfound knowledge, he asks to be let in. This, as well as the return of Wynn Ackerman, could be a game-changer. What happens if the previous audience surrogate and the only really neutral piece on the board commits to this horrific, outstanding power structure? Or, how deep can Dumas get if he only want to infiltrate the Western School to expose it? The real thrill will come in the next issues, when Hickman lets us in from the edge and peek behind the curtain at this dense, clandestine, and officially magical world.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?