A name to conjure with in comics.
the list of cool things he has created or had a hand in are lengthy. He created the popular sci-fi show Babylon 5. He has wrote both for Marvel and DC with definitive runs of both Spiderman and Superman. He had his own imprint at Image comics as well. Joe’s Comics is where he created such projects as Rising Stars and Midnight Nation.
Straczynski has returned to his own imprint at Image with a book entitled Ten Grand. He answers the question, “What would you endure for just five more minutes with the one you love?”
Before I talk about the story, I have to tell you about the tremendous cover done by Ben Templesmith. It features Joe, the main character of the book, staring out at the reader from his booth in a bar. It has a dirty and decrepit feel to it that definitely permeates the image. You get the feeling of a terrible weight is hanging about Joe as he sits there and stares out at you. Templesmith has added so much gravitas to that gaze that it just sucks you in. It seems to say, “Follow me. You won’t like what you see but it will still be worth your time.” Powerful.
In this first issue of Ten Grand, we are introduced to Joe and the world that he lives in. Joe was an enforcer for organized crime. When someone needed killing, he was the man for the job. His last job is what turns his life upside down. Instead of another enforcer, it turns out that his target is somehow involved with the dark arts and demons. Instead of completing the job, he and the love of his life, Laura, are murdered. Before he shuffled off the mortal coil though, an angel offers him a deal. Laura is going to heaven and he is not. If he takes the deal, he will be returned to life and expected to die righteously doing the work of the angel. If he does this, he will be given five minutes with Laura in heaven and then returned to life to start again until all his sins have been righted and he can spend eternity with Laura. He says yes without hesitation.
The story is a mix of hard-boiled detective fiction and Richard Kadrey style urban fantasy. There are angels and demons mixed with seedy bars and strip clubs. All of this is united by the thread of doing these horrible things to help those in need and getting to be wit the one you love, no matter how brief the time. One of the touched I liked was the antagonistic relationship between Joe and his angelic handler. He needs to contact them and does it at a strip club in an effort to show what little defiance he is capable of. This one thing is both epic and pathetic all at once and puts a nice bow on the life of Joe.
Ben Templesmith’s art is a fine compliment to the story. He provides a gritty feel that compliments the hard-boiled edge of the story. In the opening panels, he paints us a picture of Laura. The words tell us about how she is beautiful. The panels are filled with white and she has a warm golden tone to her. A beauty though, she is not. The art very much communicates that she is beautiful Joe and that is enough. Once again, very strong stuff.
The art and writing on this book are stellar. It has me hooked and I am looking forward to seeing where Stracynski takes this. I just hope that there isn’t a long walk-about for no apparent reason.