Ten Grand is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the last remaining vestiges of JMS’ talent. I’ve been (at best) “vocally” dismissive of his other recent books - like the absolutely atrocious Apocalypse Al - and while being relatively middling, Ten Grand is by-far the crown in his current catalogue. The narrative turn-off it has taken has been significant, but with issue eight, at very least it’s getting back on-track. However, is that a good thing ... or a bad thing? Let’s do a quick review of what Ten Grand is about, as it’s been a while since the book addressed its own main plot. Along with his main squeeze, Laura, Joe Fitzgerald was killed years ago by supernatural forces after a mob hit-gone-bad. Agreeing to become a quasi-immortal agent of Heaven in exchange for five minutes of face time with Laura’s soul each time he dies in the line of service, Joe has now found himself on a mission that has gone from pretty confusing to very personal.
Now, he’s in Hell, trying to take back the soul of his beloved Laura that was stolen from Heaven in an effort to re-spark a war of angels, and he’s not overly-enthused about it. The majority of this issue follows the history of Brother James, with whom Joe meets and talks, and against whom he exacts some sweet afterlife vengeance, being that BJ here is the one that called the hit on Laura and him.
The origin story of Brother James as a twisted enforcer of Heaven was actually pretty cool to see splayed out here, but ignoring his fairly hasty switch from the light side to that of the dark upon his death, this story feels like it’s been too long in the coming.
The aside that led Joe from the real world and into the nether realm has plodded on for a little bit now, and while it’s been fun, the main plot of this story has simultaneously been lost for a few issues.
They do a decent job of revisiting the (Templesmith-illustrated) beginnings of this series, but even that feels like an admission on the creator’s part that maybe this book has been off-track for a hot minute, and the rehash of old story and artwork is painfully just that, and transparent in its use as filler.
Saying that, I do like the description of Hell here as a realm occupying its own plane of existence, thus being as endless as Heaven. I also enjoyed the way that Brother James plays the tempting devil, and makes some good points as to the less-than-equal deal setup between Joe and Heaven.
This is all not yet mentioning where this whole thing is going, with legions of Heaven’s defectors waiting in the wings (if you’ll pardon the angelic pun) and ready to strike. Like I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for that kind of Revelations-style story, so somewhat despite myself and my jaded opinion of JMS at the moment, I’m still a big fan of the Judeo-Christian mythology at work here and am looking forward to seeing where it goes.
There’s a clear tying of loose ends in Ten Grand #8, but it’s finally getting back to where it needs to be in terms of story, despite it being a pretty massive departure from how the series started. Still, if it’s one JMS book you should still actually read, it’s this one.
Writer: J. Michael Stracynski Artist: C.P. Smith Publisher: Image/Joe’s Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/19/14