Review: ‘Ten Grand’ #6

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Creator and series scribe, J. Michael Straczynski continues his collaboration with recently anointed series artist, C.P. Smith, to deliver another solid issue for Image Comics’ “Ten Grand”. What seemed to be a sceptical endeavor prior to the release of last month’s installment, turned out to make perfect sense come issue #6, as both writer and illustrator strike a tangible creative balance while feeding off each other’s talents.

WRITTEN BY: J. Michael Straczynski
ART BY: C.P. Smith
PUBLISHER: Joe’s Comics / Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASE: December 18, 2013

Straczynski never disappoints when it comes to scripting fully satiating and well thought-out narratives that pull readers into the story. With a masterful control of pacing, and a natural inclination to steer clear of plot predictability, the writer knows exactly how to evaluate and stimulate audience appeal. The series has been consistently good and brilliantly developed, and while it has hit a couple roadblocks along the way, not a single issue failed to deliver an above average installment to date. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

The sixth chapter of the series is called, “See Me”, and Straczynski provides readers with a fantastically tragic, and wickedly violent, backstory involving Joe and his destructive upbringing. What is learned helps to really establish the reasons why the protagonist is the way that he is. C.P. Smith does a remarkable job bringing this dark flashback to life, and depicting a young, unapologetic, and slightly eerie version of Joe. With an absence of light, and the use of somber tones when colouring these scenes, Smith effectively sets the right mood for the story. The realistically rendered crimson blood splatter is an added bonus.

Ever since Joe Fitzgerald became privy to the fact that his love Laura was not in heaven as he had originally believed, but rather suffering in hell, he has been diligently working to find his way to her in hopes of saving his beloved from an eternity of agony. In this installment, while questing through the dangers and deceptiveness of Purgatory, Joe begins to lose sight of his mission. That is, until he meets an imprisoned archangel who promises to guide him on the right path to his love, in exchange for his freedom. Joe needs to make a decisively important decision, or bear hardship to the consequences.

Straczynski’s introduction of the caged archangel Jeheol is an obvious, and unexpected, nod to Jewish legends derived from the manuscripts of the Apocalypse of Abraham. If it wasn’t made abundantly clear by his name and title as the liege commander of the seraphim, his scuffle with a domineeringly large creature, which he destroys using a fire-bladed sword, is evidence enough. The inclusion of this character is a welcomed plot development in the overall narrative, and further proof that Straczynski is one the most unpredictable comic book writers out there.

Smith provides a beautifully illustrated splash page for the Jeheol’s dramatic character reveal, and shines with an extraordinarily distinctive style of art throughout the book. Two specific scenes come to mind when thinking about his best panels, and they are the young Joe flashback moment, and the archangel’s epic battle with the grotesquely envisioned monster. He has a keen sense for visualizing and depicting movement in the script, as well as a unique propensity for mixed media when it comes to layering his panels with pencils, paint, and potentially Photoshop. This is only his second installment in the series so far, and he already seems to be making strides in the “Ten Grand” universe. It’s still a bit bizarre not to see Templesmith’s work on the interior pages, but he’s provided another fantastic cover for the book, so that’s something to appreciate.

“Ten Grand” continues to be one of the best books on the shelves today, and arguably one of the most unpredictable as well. Whatever Straczynski has planned for the remainder of the arc, who really knows? But it’s going to be super entertaining regardless.

4/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – ShadowJayd