Ten Grand #1
J.Michael Straczynski and Ben Templesmith
Published by: Joe’s Comics (through Image Comics)
I sat and read this book one morning before work. Just sat, chilled out on my couch, cup of tea in my hand, curtains letting the warm sunlight in and a my bare feet up on the coffee table….
I shouldn’t have read this book like that.
This book should be read at night, with a strong whisky in your hand, candles lit and some sombre dark music coming out of your stereo speakers. This is a dark book!
JMS isn’t known for these tonally darker books so I was a little surprised. I mainly associate JMS (I’m using the acronym because his surname is darned tricky to spell) with lighter, flashier things like his award winning TV series Babylon 5 or his recent run on Superman: Earth One. He tells stories of hope and more often than not his characters have strong positive outlooks on life – not here, though!
This series’ main character is a much darker soul, a man with a past and as cynical as they come. You first meet him waking up and going to a bar, with unkempt hair and stubble on his face. From there, the story sinks further and JMS does a great job of crafting this new world, with it’s rules of summoning and magic as he tells what looks to be the tale of a John Constantine-type character’s search for redemption in a grim world.
Despite the darkness of this series, and the fact that after reading it I kind of wanted to hug somebody, I have to say: my god this book is pretty!!
This is actually my first proper exposure to Ben Templesmith’s artwork, apart from occasional glances in other comics in the store, or when I’d see things online, but I am sold! His art is so tonal and moody, and he fills each panel with little touches, and subtle little bits that you have to look at a second or third time to take everything in.
The whole story is paced and moody, with small hints f action throughout so, although this isn’t the most dynamic artwork I’ve seen, each page is eye catching and draws you in with it’s style and detail. Templesmith understands the world that JMS is trying to achieve and is pacing this book superbly whilst still setting an atmosphere.
The other beautiful part of the art is the colour – Templesmith colours himself and uses a cross between faint, layered and muted colours with bright glaring tones depending on what’s needed from panel to panel. He is trying to emphasise the dichotomy between good magic and bad magic – heaven and hell, dark and light!
It is said that the brightest men have the darkest stories, and when you look at the likes of Scott Snyder, Brian Bendis and Jeff Lemire you can understand why! Well, you can now add J. Michael Straczynski to that list as well as Templesmith (although the very fine Templesmith already has a fair history of darker tales with the original 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre and so on – Joe) because they are both outgoing, intelligent and upbeat type of gents… but they tell a dark and moody book! This issue has been compared to early Hellblazer and I can totally see the comparison! I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a darker moodier book that steps firmly away from superheroes and from the light!