Thursday, 2 May 2013

New Beginnings - Ten Grand #1

“Where she’s going, you can’t come. And where you’re going you don’t want her to come.”

Such a simply ominous phrase that provides all of the motivation in Joe Straczynski’s new title Ten Grand.

This is the phrase that an angel used to take Joe Fitzgerald’s love and turn it into a well motivated weapon. Joe is an enforcer, but of a different sort.

Back in the 80’s if there was an issue you needed to sort, the local hoodlums causing you grief or a mob boss breathing down your neck, then you sought out Edward Woodward and used the services of The Equalizer.

If you have a problem that is almost unique in its nature, without necessarily being fixed within the normals of society, then you head to Lenny’s bar and find Joe, because he deals with things that aren’t necessarily normal.

This is the case in point for Debbie, she doesn’t give a surname because names have power - a recurring theme in this issue - and Joe doesn’t need to know or care about it either. The case seems simple on the surface too; a missing sister, a mysterious cult, and a number of clues and snippets of information to help Joe. It’s only when he sees a picture of the man responsible and the mention of demonic practises that things really start getting interesting - especially as Joe put a bullet in that man years before.

The story then explores Joe's backstory, whilst also following him during his investigation by doing things such as summoning Angels in strip clubs – which appears to be a sort of twisted half pleasure for Joe – and using the internet with the alphabet of angels to find answers, all nice little touches on a story that had a definite feel of DC’s Constantine behind it. The big difference there is that Joe died, and keeps dying for the Angels' cause as well, but as long as he dies righteously he earns five precious minutes with Laura the woman he loves and does it all for.

Straczynski has returned to his Joe’s Comics brand with a strong opening salvo. The brand itself is being used as a platform to try and bring new ideas to light. It is an interesting story and an enjoyable read as it didn’t feel dumbed down or too obvious, although as mentioned above the shadow of Constantine looms over you as you read it. Thankfully this it is not a story that is trying to mimic or outdo Hellblazer. It also has a limited lifespan to begin with, as all the new Joe's Comics' titles are planned to be between six or eight issues (maybe 12 at a stretch) before a small break and re-evaluation. This is a concept that I like - if it’s got more life in a story then it will get the time and attention it deserves rather than rolling it out quickly to make a fast buck. I’m already hoping that this is going to be on that repeat list.

Ben Templesmith is the artist for this title too and I don’t recognise his work immediately, despite his well known work on 30 Days Of Night and his own creator-owned titles. Normally I am a big fan of tight clean lines with lots of detail in the frame and shy away from artists who don’t work in this way. However I found myself reading both the story and the artwork in this issue. I’m not completely sold on his work as I found levels of variation in it with some pages. Possibly there is something psychological in it all as I found the darker pages, or ones highlighted in reds and oranges to be stronger art for me, while the calmer coloured ones didn’t evoke so much of a response. I have to say my favourite was the last page as it had a strange sinister angel depicted in one part and then macabre images in another.

As a brand new title with a different perspective on things I would suggest getting it to read. Fans of JMS certainly won’t be disappointed by the writing either.

Matt Puddy is ready to delve into Gail Simone's new offering.

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