Rating: 3.5/5 – Joe Fitzgerald goes on the ride of his lives.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Jeff Bouchard.
Comics have never had a shortage of stories pitting good vs evil, heaven vs hell, in a winner-take-all struggle, typically with the souls of all the humans on Earth hanging in the balance. From Spawn to the demon-ridden, occult-laced Hellboy and B.P.R.D.books, some of the better stories being told in comics revolve around these topics. When a new book in this genre hits the shelves it needs to have a good hook or premise or it could get lost in the shuffle.
Ten Grand, a story about mob enforcer Joe Fitzgerald, and the world of demonology and ancient relics of power has such a hook. As Joe was looking to get out of the mob enforcement racket he took one last job, one that cost him and his wife their lives. As he was dying an angel made him a deal – use his skills for the angel’s purpose and if he dies a righteous death because of it, he gets to see his wife for five minutes, until he is resurrected and has to go back to do it all over again.
Ten Grand Volume 1 contains the first six issues of the series which is written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Ben Templesmith (issues 1-4) and C.P. Smith (issues 5 and 6). Lettering is handled by Troy Peteri. The first thing that hits you when reading Ten Grand is the art, as Ben Templesmith has a very unique style, one that fits the vibe of the book quite well. I first encountered Templesmith’s art on the Eisner-nominated book Fell, and Ten Grand reminded me of that book on several occasions. Templesmith’s art is rough and sketchy with a rich and deep color palate backing it up in a painterly style. The full page splashes are beautifully done and the demons and creatures encountered by Joe are well rendered by Templesmith. It is visceral and evokes a response that builds a connection between reader and story which strengthens the experience and enjoyment. The topics of religion and heaven and hell do a similar thing from the story-standpoint and it is why I think the first several issues of the trade are some of the strongest.
Issue 5 of the series takes the trade in a different direction on several fronts. From a story perspective we find our protagonist leaving the realm of the living to go after his wife Laura and on the art front, Ben Templesmith gives way to C.P. Smith. In these last two issues my enjoyment suffered slightly as that connection to the art I mentioned previously was lost for me. C.P. Smith’s style, like Templesmith’s, is unique. I am not sure how Smith produces the art but it reminds me of CGI animation with the panels acting as cells of that animation. It was a little jarring to go from Templesmith’s style to Smith’s but as far as the flow of the book is concerned, it was one at time where the setting of the book changed so I guess that was an opportune time if a change had to happen.
My biggest issue with the last two issues of the trade regarding the art is that the style felt cold and emotionless to me. It is technically proficient and sequentially tells the story as it should and I am sure there are fans of it, but it just did not connect with me, certainly not as much as Templesmith’s did. This is compounded by the story leading readers into some fairly emotionally charged scenes in issues 5 and 6 which I thought lost some power and effect on me because of my lack of connection with the art.
JMS has created a very interesting world, with a flawed and complex character in Joe Fitzgerald in the middle of struggle much larger than him, battling demons (both internal and external) and using some really cool occult relics like swords of flame and soul stones along the way. I am hooked, it is an interesting premise and for all of Joe’s faults and wrongs, I want him to see him kick some butt and avenge his wife. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my enjoyment leveled waned with the change of artists. That said, I am looking forward to the next volume and watching Joe raise some hell…in hell.
Reviewed by: Jeff Bouchard
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