First off, I apologize for being a week late with this Ten Grand #4 review. I went on vacation last week, which is no excuse, but my head wasn’t quite in the game. Likewise, sorry I didn’t cover Ten Grand #3, which if you’re curious, I would have given a 9. Anyway, let’s get into this issue, and see if it’s good.
Ten Grand #4 (Image/Joe’s Comics)
J. Michael Straczynski has really gotten his hooks into me. I’m a big fan of Joe, and ache for the loss of his love, Laura, who is now in Heaven… presumably. It’s very easy to write angels and demons very hokey. It’s very easy to do supernatural fiction, and to make people lose any semblance of an emotional grounding due to the outlandishness of the scenario. But J. Michael is able to make you somehow empathize with a former killer for the mob, and to care for a guy who can’t die. This series could have very easily gone off the rails into cheesy town, but J. Michael keeps the choo-choo on the tracks by centering the plot around Joe and his emotions, rather than emphasizing the more fantastical elements (and believe me, there are many.) It’s a formula that works well.
If you’ve bothered to read anything I’ve written in the form of comic critiquery, you will know that I’m a hopeless Templesmith fanatic. The layering, the colors, the angular aspects to the characters and things he draws. His use of shadow is amazing, and the way he conveys motion is frenetic and effective. Even the little things, like finding out he sometimes paints with beer. And by the by, fairly sure he’s usually his own colorist. Jack of all trades, mang. I’m happy to report that Templesmith seamlessly blends his art with J. Michael’s powerful choice of words, and the result has me in awe. A great example is the first page of the issue.
“But I taste the ash of the lie even as I try to swallow it,” is quite poetic. It brings with it imagery of fire, and since it’s right above the title “A Hole in Heaven,” the reader immediately gets the sense this comic will deal with Hell, even if they haven’t bothered to read the part on the intro page that explains what’s happened so far. The effect Templesmith uses to show a rush forward, both from Laura’s eye and to convey how quickly Joe sits up in bed lets us know ’twas a bad nightmare. Joe goes on to explain his dreams, to further solidify how terrible they are. The plain black panel right before Joe wakes up, with just the “…Hellllllp Meeeeeeeee…” is the part of the dream where Joe is about to regain consciousness, or can be seen as where the connection fades between Joe and wherever Laura is calling to him from. By the end of the panel, we wonder along with Joe, was all just a dream? Don’t mean to get over analytical here, but that’s just the first page. There’s 21 more where that came from.
- Excellent writing. Dialogue, inner monologue, onomatopoeia, you name it.
- This has quite a lot of eerie, scary panels.
- Made me very emotional, which admittedly, is a rare occurrence.
Is It Good?
It’s really good. Yet again, I can’t think of a single part I didn’t like. It’s funny, sad, and makes you feel the anger the protagonist feels, which occurs in the best fiction. When I read Ten Grand, I’m right there with Joe, no matter how weird stuff gets. J. Michael Straczynski and Templesmith are a marriage made in Heaven (and Hell), and I hope they decide to work on something else together in the future. Not only is this my favorite comic series of the year, (even surpassing Colder, which I really dug), but it has become one of, if not my favorite, fictional work of the year. Unless they really botch it with the ending, I see this easily being very high on the list of my favorite comics of the year. A mix of noir, horror, and straight up drama; do yourself a favor and read Ten Grand.