Ten Grand #3 had its problems, but overall it was a phenomenal comic. It was affecting and cynical and dark and brutal. It carried with it the promise of forward momentum, of a series ironing out its pacing issues. And the last scene carried with it a palpable sense of physical danger, spiritual bankruptcy, and emotional breakdown. Thanks to Ben Templesmith’s art, it became one of my favorite sequences in modern comics.
But then here’s #4.
Pacing issues, plotting issues, character issues, this book has problems. In my mind, the biggest issue this book faces is one of pacing. The last issue ended on such a cliffhanger that I was so excited to see what happened next. I mean for God’s sake, Laura had been ripped from what was supposedly Heaven and literally dragged down into Hell. How does that even happen? So you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when we, and Joe, have literally no new information by the end of this issue. #4 consisted of Joe failing to talk to an angel, and then essentially getting into a bar fight at the Gates of Hell.
Now, I get the desire to show the journey from Point A (Laura’s fall from Heaven) to Point B (Joe saving her, or at least understanding why she was taken), but we didn’t need a four page fight scene between Joe and some nameless goons. Sure, it was gorgeous, but what does it accomplish? I get that Joe’s tough and he’s going to fight to save Laura. I get it. Now let’s move on, please, J. Michael Straczynski.
The plotline to this issue wasn’t the only thing slowing down this book. Narration. Caption boxes. So much monologue-ing. Joe comes from the classic hardboiled school, and his inner monologue is about five times longer than it should be; a hardboiled character is laconic, inside and out. I don’t want Joe to tell me exactly what he’s thinking. That’s boring, and it doesn’t fit the genre. “Show me, don’t tell me,” is about the oldest cliché in the writing game, but Templesmith is such a good artist, and he should be carrying more of the story. JMS just isn’t letting that happen.
Apart from JMS trying to hog the page, the art is wonderful as usual. The aforementioned fight scene is indeed too long, but it’s rendered in such finely wrought, gory detail that it almost doesn’t matter that it takes up about a fifth of the book. And it’s a shame that the pages are so cluttered with caption boxes; I love seeing Templesmith on interiors, and he should have as much room as possible.
Let me just say, finally, that I’m still interested in this story. I still want to know what’s going to happen next, and with Joe at the Gates of Hell, I expect #5 to be extremely interesting.
-What happened to that mystical rock thing that let Joe talk to dead people? It exploded in #3 and everyone acted like it was kind of a big deal, but then it wasn’t mentioned at all this issue. Where’d that go?
Story: J. Michael Straczynski Art: Ben Templesmith
Story: 6 Art: 9 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.