After a long three month hiatus, J. Michael Straczynski’s Ten Grand returns sans the incomparable Ben Templesmith. With a new artistic vision and style that’s vastly different, though still committed to reader enrichment, C.P. Smith does a commendable job rising to the challenge of filling in the rather large shoes of his predecessor. Unfortunately, the new vibe of the book will take some getting used to, but unsurprisingly, the narrative is as solid as ever.
WRITTEN BY: J. Michael Straczynski
ART BY: C.P. Smith
PUBLISHER: Joe’s Comics, imprint of Image Comics
RELEASE: November 6, 2013
If there’s one less thing to worry about, it’s Straczynski’s ability to weave a wholly original and complex tale that holds the reader’s attention from cover to cover. The author has this innate gift of stringing words together to deliver a thoroughly satisfying narrative in a mere 22 pages, and that’s something that was sorely missed these last few months. Keeping with the tone of the previous installments, there’s a palpable theme of anxiety and urgency that Straczynski and Smith really evoke through the narrative in both script and art, as the “Ten Grand” universe continues to expand.
The fifth installment of the series is entitled, “Nothing Interesting Ever Happens in Heaven”, and Straczynski draws upon existentialist thinking to engage readers in his surreal and mysterious world building. The issue follows Joe as he makes his way through the sorrows and deceptiveness of Purgatory on his way into Hell, in order to find his lost love, Laura. Without giving too much away, the supernatural Private Investigator must stay resilient in his quest, as he’s confronted with the miserable souls of the lost, the ravenous howlers that feed off them, and his enemies from the past who are none too happy to see him. The story takes an unexpected turn when Joe is faced with an individual he knows all too well, and with that, Straczynski has opened up a world of possible scenarios for how this book might play out.
In terms of the interior artwork, yes, the pages are visually shocking upon first glance considering the perfectly suitable fit that was Templesmith’s style. But that doesn’t take away from Smith’s talent as an artist, and it doesn’t take away from Straczynski’s amazing narrative, which is as engaging as it is thought-provoking. Yes, it is pretty disappointing that Templesmith can’t continue his work on the book due to time constraints and general work-overload, but he’s illustrated another great cover, and has once again provided his accompanying panels to the usual series rundown which opens the installment. Regarding Smith’s style, he does manage to stay true to the hypnogogic and surreal nature of the series. It’s just that his art is definitely an acquired taste. The colour palette he uses, and the way he renders the pages is a definite highlight, especially when illustrating the scenes with the fantastically imagined Reaper. Honestly, it will probably take a couple more installments for readers to get used to his style, but as long as everyone keeps an open mind, they’ll eventually take to him.
Templesmith is definitely going to be missed. But as long as Straczynski continues to flesh out amazingly written installments that keep his readers on their toes, and C.P. Smith continues to immerse himself in Straczynski’s universe in order to effectively bring his story to life with absolute clarity, then “Ten Grand” will remain one of the better series’ of 2013.
Reviewed by – ShadowJayd