Ten Grand #6: Altering the Deal
There are two ways to see Ten Grand #6. The foolhardy will see it as a time killer, the more aware will understand it as a necessary look at both our hero and how dedicated he is to his quest. J. Michael Straczynski has struck supernatural gold here, and issue #6 continues the consistent excellence of Ten Grand. While the anti-hero concept of Joe Fitzgerald might be something seen before, the execution of his story remains fresh and exciting. Outside of being a stand out series, Ten Grand has movie or HBO mini-series written all over it.
Joe is in a tight spot. His long-standing job as solider in the war between good and evil has led him to the afterworld. Joe’s motivations are solely focused on his wife. In his agreement with the angels, when Joe is killed battling the supernatural, he is allowed five minutes in her embrace. After that, Joe returns to the earthly plane, awaiting his next set of orders. Now, thanks to some demon shenanigans, Joe’s wife’s spirit has been taken, and Joe aims to get her back. Problem is, the afterworld is not an easy place to move through. Part of the game is getting locked into a surreal and recurring memory of your life, while at the same time getting hit with amnesia.
Having forgotten who he is, where he is, or why he’s there, Joe suddenly gets involved in a bit of drama from his own past – first running from a failed hit, then talking to his old mob boss, and then standing alone in an apartment, facing a picture of his beloved wife who he can’t remember. Straczynski does a nice job of opening up Joe’s past without resorting to easy exposition. There’s also a new and interesting mythological character that might be able to help Joe on his quest.
Straczynski is at his crackling best here. Mini-series tend to sag in the middle, usually making it up via a combustible ending. Ten Grand is the turtle in the race, preferring slow and steady storytelling to shock and awe. Issue #6 deviates from the main plot, but never loses momentum and never becomes convoluted. Straczynski allows his story to remain as much a mystery to the reader as it is to Joe.
I’ve had to put my “This is not Ben Templesmith” sadness to bed. C.P. Smith does some great work here. This guy is all perspective. Every panel has something wholly unique, either in the angle of the shot or the dynamics between the main focus and the background. Smith takes some visual cues from '60s pop art, and then uses watercolors across the pages to allow the afterworld to seem as creepy as possible. A book like Ten Grand is all about mood, and Smith provides an ample serving of it.
Ten Grand is an exceptional work. Beautifully rendered, expertly written, and the kind of creepy good time so few books provide anymore.
(4.5 Story, 4 Art)