Ten Grand #3: JMS Continues to Surprise
J. Michael Straczynski continues to surprise with Ten Grand #3. The idea of a man with a checkered past being sucked into service with the occult is not new. What is new, however, is how personal and compelling JMS makes the characters here. The situation is dark, the horrors are real, but what you focus on is the humanity of the piece. JMS is making some wonderful statements about the power of love, and the truth of a soulmate.
Joe Fitzgerald is the epitome of the anti-hero. A former mob enforcer who was killed after being sent to assassinate someone who turned out to be a demon, Joe is now on Earth, working for angels in a holy war. His prize? Every time he dies in angelic service, he gets to spend five minutes with the spirit of his dead wife. When not involved with demons and monsters, Joe makes a living helping people in trouble. His fee? Ten grand. Why? He wants to weed out those who really need help from those who do not. His latest assignment, helping a girl named Debbie find her sister Sarah, has ended in disaster. Debbie is dead, she plummeted off the top of a building, taking Joe with her.
Returning to the earthly plane, Joe decides to hunt down the demon responsible for the deaths of Sarah, Debbie and Joe’s wife. What Joe doesn’t see is that the very same angels he serves are using him. They are looking to capture his dead wife’s spirit in order to use him. Joe is up against new threats at every turn, which take a slight back seat as JMS decides to fill us in on how Joe Fitzgerald met the love of his life. I rolled my eyes a bit at this because I was figuring on a typical, and unnecessary love story. I was way off.
JMS not only gives an interesting “first meet” story, he also really manages to impart how much Joe loves his wife. JMS strikes gold by approaching with less-is-more. Joe is a man of few words, but his words count. By the time he’s finished telling his story, there is a tiny ache in your heart. In a few pages, JMS completely humanizes Joe, making him an easier hero to connect with.
No short order of kudos should flow the way of Ben Templesmith. His art is staggering in this book. The penciling is perfect, the way he blends color to give the scenes depth, and an undercurrent of creepy, is exceptional. The demonic creations Templesmith comes up with are original, and vile. Instead of straight art, Templesmith approaches Ten Grand like a movie. He uses different filters, different lighting and effects, to create the physical side of this story. It’s one of the best pairings of story and art in a long time
Ten Grand is that rare occasion when comic books transcend genre, and became true literature and art.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)