Ten Grand #1
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Illustrated by Ben Templesmith
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Covers by Ben Templesmith, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jae Lee, and Ryan Sook
Image Comics / Joe’s Comics
Release Date: May 1, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99
J. Michael Straczynski returns to Joe’s Comics — a Top Cow imprint that Straczynski created to helm Rising Stars, which is now at Image Comics. His first new venture under the imprint with illustrations by Ben Templesmith comes in the form of Ten Grand, a thriller that integrates mystery and suspense with the celestial and supernatural. This one had me biting my already short nails.
Ten Grand #1 takes us on a journey through the eyes of Joe Fitzgerald — a man who takes a lot of things very personally — from our world to the otherworldly confines of a seedy city; a dark, urban area where nothing is as it seems. Having once been a top enforcer for an underground crime-lord, Joe had everything stripped away when his lover, Laura, was murdered. Now a bitter and cynical man, Joe will take any job for the right price: ten grand. Such is the case when Debbie, a streetwise gothic girl comes to Joe for help. It turns out that Debbie’s sister, Sarah, had involved herself with a religious cult called Divine Will and is now missing. Debbie reveals an image to Joe of Divine Will’s leader, James. Confusion and anger set in as it is revealed that Joe has a violent past with James. It turns out that their first encounter was what drove Joe down his current path in life. He gives Debbie her money back and agrees to take the case for free as it has now become a personal matter.
Straczsynski’s writing is superb in this first issue. He presents a tale of loss and the struggle to continue on with ease. Joe’s eccentricities are at times humorous and at other times borderline absurd; but they all blend in a perfect manner with his character. Straczsynski has a knack for turning an unlikeable person into someone you truly want to see come out on top. The present day elements of the story and the flashbacks are interlaced together masterfully to present a clear understanding of what has happened in Joe’s life and what must now occur.
Templesmith’s art is terrifically appropriate for the comic at hand. His murky color scheme draws attention to the eerie, unearthly overtones of Joe’s world. It presents the sort of depressed desperation that Ten Grand requires to fully tell its story.
I’ve enjoyed Straczynski’s writing in the past, having collected his entire run on Amazing Spider-Man from 2001-2008 as well as Superman: Earth One. Though Ten Grand is clearly darker in tone to anything I’ve read of his in the past, I’m not deterred one bit from continuing on with the series. I’m with Joe, and this just got personal.