Ten Grand #1
The title of this book, the debut series from Image imprint Joe’s Comics, comes form the amount that its protagonist, the aptly titled Joe Fitzgerald, charges for his services as a paranormal private investigator. He doesn’t do it for the money though, his real reasons for working established later, the charge is simply to “weed out the kooks, the clowns, the whackos, the feebs, the creeps [and] the game-players”; strangely then that is exactly who Ten Grand seems to focus on.
When we hear tales told of the divine war, of heaven, of hell and the rapture the characters within them are usually high and distinguished, the Dramatis personæ. Here though the characters are conflicted, the settings seedy and behavior by both sides far too human: here Angels inhabit the bodies of strippers – that popular pseudonyms brought ingloriously to life – while demon’s possess PC’s not protected by walls of divine fire. Its an iteration of a comforting story told using the things we’d all rather not see.
But see it you should because this is one of the best looking books that i have picked up in quite some time,though that was to be expected given the name on the cover. Though he didn’t write it Ten Grand is very much a Ben Templesmith book, sister to the likes of Choker which implemented a similar sort of juxtaposition between the bombast of high-fantasy and the grit of a good detective noir. This is territory that he has travelled before, but that’s because it is so very suited to his style.
Similarly his art here will be familiar to fans, the man has a set style, but because it is one so unlike nearly anything else in comics ( the only comparable artist is his friend and fellow Australian Christian Read, whose book Changing Ways you should read) that’s acceptable, and because it happens to look amazing even better. The way he washes colour over the splashed, scratched and shadowed black figures is constantly compelling and although the effect of each panel is instant, going back there is such intricate detail to be seen in both the faces and unforegrounded settings.
One of the new things I noticed upon my second slip through the story was the fact that the tails, or stems, of his word balloons aren’t straight, they swirl and sputter from the throats of the characters; this isn’t a straight line kind of world and the very personal, very particular art coneys that perfectly. Looking just at the number of words within those bubbles and the boxes of narration besides them you wouldn’t figure that the artist would warrant first mention,and were it anyone else drawing they likely would have wound up buried underneath the verbosity of the issue.
Here, in his creator-owned series under his personally-owned banner of Image comics writer J. Michael Straczynski obviously felt free to write not only what he wanted and how he wanted, but as much as he wanted. Ten Grand could also be an estimate of the series final word-count. Some might see this as a flaw, they might struggle with having to actually read a comic but as someone who shares both Jim and Joe’s belief in the ” power of words” I fully support this style when done right.
And it is done right here. Joe’s narration, a key element of any Noir or Noir-infused narrative, delivers a nice mix of plot and character exposition alongside beats of beautiful flavour, the world and its workings established as much through the way he describes it as by what we see occur. The dialogue, while never demanding, has layers to it, conversations bouncing back and forth from topic to topic with appreciable wit, the wordplay funny but wryly so.
As for the story that these elements all come together to tell, because it is so serialized – JMS says in his closing letter that the Joes Comics books will be exactly as long as their story dictates and no longer – its a little harder to judge that based on one lone issue. There are a lot of threads reeled out but they haven’t yet started to string together as they surely will; the potential here is huge but there are an equal amount of safe routes open as stunning ones, so we shall have to wait and see. What I do know is that the book has already caught both my eye and my attention enough to warrant a second read and the idea of a vocal performance has me open for a third so whatever happens this whacko will be there to witness it.