Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Joe Fitzgerald is a man you come to when you don’t have anyone else. A problem solver, Joe has a reputation hard-earned through his previous life as a mob enforcer and the horrific end to that career. Joe knows what the awful things that lurk out in the world are, he knows some of them are angels and he knows how little that means. But Joe also knows what he gets if he does something for the angels and that makes everything worthwhile.
J Michael Straczynski’s return to monthly comics is essential reading for Supernatural or Hellblazer fans. Joe is cut from the same cloth as both John Constantine and Dean Winchester; a man prepared to do whatever he has to get the job done but painfully aware of his own failings. It’s a gutsy choice for a lead but Straczynski nails it. Joe’s odd skill set – one-part mob enforcer, one-part exorcist – doesn’t get in the way of some great, hard bitten dialogue or a world-weary sense of humour. Joe knows what he’s done, knows he has to pay and isn’t close to alright with that. But this is all he has, so he makes do. The reveal on the “job offer” he gets comes in a flashback in the closing pages and it’s perfect. Romantic and hideous and cruel, it’d make a senior Supernatural angel proud. It makes Joe miserable and that drives the book along, his constant need to do better, to get what he needs. He’s tragic and contemptible, a scruffy street dog of a man who still, somehow, has a little light in his eyes. Joe’s a noir hero, through and through, a man who Philip Marlowe would raise a glass to but keep an eye on. He’s also fun, giving the book a streak of black wit.
Ben Templesmith’s art is perfect for the book. His demons are hideous, scratchy caricatures of meat and gristle and he shifts the colour palette of the book to reflect that. Joe’s world is noir grey and sodium light yellow whilst the demons’ pages glow with reds and yellows. The world feels battered and real, Joe is all too fragile and the demons never stop coming.
Neither do the flourishes. This is a smart, nasty book crammed to the nines with ideas, ranging from Joe using a sigil on a dollar bill to download an angel into a pole dancer or the single most terrifying use of a smartphone you’ll see this year. Everything feels well thought out and grounded, and there’s a sense of a lot of story waiting to be told here. As long as Joe can keep doing the good work of course.
Crammed full of great art, great ideas and bloody knuckled horror, Ten Grand is exceptional. Horrific, funny, dark and sweet, it makes quite an impact. Just like Joe.
With thanks to Treasure Island Comics in Fremont, California for the review copy