Review: ‘Ten Grand’ #1

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The release of Ten Grand marks the significant return of Joe’s Comics to the industry, where quality and artistry are valued over corporate agendas, and income statements are surprisingly inconsequential in terms of production process. From the same imprint that published “Rising Stars” and “Midnight Nation”, creator and writer, J. Michael Straczynski teams up with Ben Templesmith, to deliver more experimental and unmitigated storytelling in the form of a supernatural, crime noir series of lost love and revenge. Although nothing new is provided beyond what’s already been teased in previews, issue #1 manages to establish itself as a solid opener to the series.

WRITTEN BY: J. Michael Straczynski
ART BY: Ben Templesmith
PUBLISHER: Joe’s Comics, imprint of Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASE: May 1st, 2013

Using numerous well-placed and smoothly transitioned flashbacks, Straczynski provides readers with protagonist, Joe Fitzgerald’s backstory and raison d’être, in a generously informative manner. The flashbacks tell of a man who lives a life of a mob enforcer changed by love so profoundly, he vows one last job before agreeing to leave that world behind for good. Unfortunately, grievous consequences arise from his attempts to kill a man deeply involved in demonology; consequences that brutally destroy the one thing he cares about. It’s in this moment where he’s given a choice other than death, offered to him by an inscrutable and cryptic angelic force. If he agrees to work for them, they will resurrect him everytime he dies a righteous death. But, in those five minutes that he is dead, he will be with the love of his life again.

Joe is a supernatural Private Investigator, taking on special cases that the police force refuses to acknowledge, for the price of — wait for it — ten grand. Besides the major backstory which readers were already privy to, due to Image Comics’ telling previews, the first installment establishes Joe’s current investigation, which will no doubt lead to an epic storyline expansion considering the villain reveal.

On its surface, “Ten Grand” isn’t particularly ground-breaking, in that there are many common tropes Straczynski utilizes when building the narrative. For example, in terms of familiar trends in noir fiction, it seems as though he covers it all. Complicated plots are further convoluted by flashbacks, the Anti-Hero private-investigator, the seedy city, etc. Interestingly enough, even with the stereotypical aspects, Straczynski still manages to steer the issue away from expected directions and towards fresh waters.

Ben Templesmith’s artwork compliments Straczynski’s dark and gritty world perfectly, and conveys the rough and grimy tone of the series well. What’s really impressive is how he successfully manages to disconnect flashback scenes from present day panels by utilizing darker colour palettes effectively. Besides the fantastic character designs, from humans to otherworldly beings—both good and evil—his work isn’t very detailed, but it works for the genre because his sketchy and dusky style fits the horror aspect of the book brilliantly; especially his colours when dealing fire and blood.

Straczynski and Templesmith have proven to be a perfect match for a series like this one, and readers should expect great things from the upcoming installments.

4/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – ShadowJayd

  • Canucklehead

    An excellent review Mr Monster. Solid is what I would also categorize this as. Nothing really groundbreaking but the characters, the dialogue and the artwork were all compelling enough to want me to come back for the next issue.