On Saturday comics legend Bernie Wrightson passed away at the age of 68. Over the years his name had become synonymous with horror comics in a way few (arguably no) others have before or since. His detailed line work added a naturalistic element to his art which only heightened the sense of atmosphere. His imaginative creature designs mixed the humane with the grotesque, finding their best expressions in Swamp Thing (co-created with Len Wein) and his acclaimed adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Guillermo del Toro wanted to use Wrightson’s illustrations as the visual basis for a Frankenstein film). His contributions did crossover to superheroes from time to time, most notably in his art for Jim Starlin’s Batman: The Cult miniseries. So, as we extend our sympathies to Wrightson’s loved ones, we also remember the legacy he leaves behind.
By this point, it should not surprise anyone that Jonathan Hickman has a bit of an apocalyptic streak in him. The most obvious examples of this tendency would be East of West or Secret Wars (a series which both began and ended with the literal sundering of all reality). However, this strain of pessimism can be found in many of his other works, such as Red Wing or Manhattan Projects. Even arguably his most idealistic writing, Fantastic Four/FF, often felt the poignant weight of regret for past actions, especially in regards to the character of Nathaniel Richards. Father figures often fail in Hickman’s worldview and not merely on a personal level. Usually the entire system meant to keep society running smoothly is in danger of collapsing. And why not? “You have earned what is coming to you” East of West continually reminds its readers. Today Hickman revisits these themes once again with the debut issue of a new Image series The Black Monday Murders. Yet, skillfully written within a fresh context, these ideas never feel like old hat. Instead, aided by talented artistic collaborators, Hickman produces an excellent first issue for the series.