Ten Grand #7: Fallen Angel

Ten Grand #7


Fallen angels. A great war in Heaven. The astral plane between our world and the next. Demons. Hell. The Devil himself. It’s all in a days work for Joe Fitzgerald. Writer J. Michael Straczynski has created a surly detective for the underworld with Joe, kind of a Humphrey Bogart meets Steve McQueen meets Dean from Supernatural. Ten Grand, the story of Joe, his sins, and his quest to save his wife, is easily one of the best books in Straczynski’s career.

Issue #7 continues following Joe through the afterworld as he quests to save the soul of his beloved late wife. It also expands on Jehoel, the fallen angel helping Joe on his quest. This is an epic issue, one that leads to whatever the finale might be. That’s one of the key things to Ten Grand’s success. You never know what will happen next. Straczynski weaves an astonishing story here, especially with the history of Jehoel.

What makes the origin so appealing is that Jehoel is a victim of intellect over obedience. The angels are supposed to serve the light and never ask why. Having done that for eons, and having seen the arrival of mankind, Jehoel calls into question everything on both sides – the hypocrisy of Heaven and its rules as well as the very existence of Hell. It was not rebellion that pushed Jehoel outside of the light, but rather his decision to not pick sides. He essentially felt both Heaven and Hell were liars, and he would have no part of it. It was a sin neither side could forgive, and so they put Jehoel in the cage from which Joe freed him.

Existentialism aside, Ten Grand #7 is also an adventure story. The grizzled, beaten and cynical Joe is stepping into the fight of his life in order to save the one thing he still believes in. Love. Those are heavy themes for a comic book, and Straczynski is able to handle them without becoming sentimental or preachy. Ten Grand is ultimately a love story, cloaked inside sinister demons, dark voids and vengeful soldiers of the afterworld. Keeping that core is what gives Ten Grand its emotional weight, regardless of what else is happening.

C.P. Smith goes absolutely all out in this issue. The transition from Ben Templesmith to C.P. was a shaky one, but no longer. Each and every page here is astonishing. Not just the pencils themselves, but how Smith arranges them on the page, his creativity, excellence with line work and completely unique style. I also applaud his use of color, which is perfect. There is a dream state quality here, a very real and tangible look of something that should be intangible. Smith creates the afterworld solidly enough to give it gravitas, but open enough to have readers project their own ideas on it. Brilliant work.

Ten Grand is something very special. A gift from Straczynski and Smith, as well as a clear example of when comics transcend the medium, and become a game changer for everyone who experiences it.