If you’ll excuse the early pun, Ten Grand is one hell of an interesting story, and I’m not just talking about its plot. However, perhaps its most infamous meta-development - losing its original artist early on due to strange circumstances - may have been the best thing to happen to this series. As much as I loves me some Ben Templesmith, C.P. Smith has really stepped up to the podium here, and is helping writer J. Michael Straczynski transform this book into its own otherworldly entity, and issue six is the perfect example of why.
Being trapped in an amnesiac state in a hell dimension, ex-mob enforcer and current arcane private detective Joe Fitzgerald is in a bit of a pickle. Ten Grand #6 follows along as he does battle with demons, both inner and actual, so that he can save “Heaven” (where the deceased love of his life exists) from being overrun by an incursion from “Hell.”
I often have a problem with the way dreams or dreamscapes are represented in conventional media; they never quite get it right, but thanks to its equally intangible yet somehow solid visual style and the engaging way it’s written, this issue pulls it off nicely. There is real collusion in this book’s collision, and it works well in establishing a real presence and place in a place without any real presence.
Straczynski does a great job in issue six of presenting two very different stories: one set in the echo of a grounded, gritty real world of thugs and hitmen, and the other alight with angelic fire and Revelations-style biblical conflict. It’s a strange mix, I’ll grant you, but here presented as diametrically opposed sides of the same story, it stands as a successful treatment. Because of that, too, this book further distances itself from early comparisons with Hellblazer and much like Joe, it flits between two worlds in its own unique way.
As I mentioned earlier, Smith’s art has really made its mark here after his second issue, not least because his use of color is ethereal and fantastic; a perfect way to bruise his Pixar-esque style to fit inside a story set in hell. When the shift in Stracynski’s story does come, it does so with suitable flare (hey look, another pun), mixing holy fire with infernal, sometimes crystalline viscera that allows this book to live up to the its titular use of the word grand.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Ten Grand #6 as an affirming turn for the series’ new-ish yet well-matched creative team, and I think it’s a stronger title than it has been throughout its run thus far.
At times hazy and at others piercing with tragic clarity, this story benefits from penetrative dialogue and character-building backstory as much as it does cosmic-level angel vs. demon throw-downs. It also ends with an honestly sweet and humorous take on the relationship between man and perceived divinity that I absolutely loved.
I can’t wait to see where this story leads next; whether it’s heaven, hell or someplace in between, I’m betting it’ll continue to be a fun ride.
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: C.P. Smith Publisher: Image/Joe’s Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/18/13