I enjoyed the first issue of “Ten Grand,” where J. Michael Straczynski and Ben Templesmith started with a standard “guy is hired to help people in need” pulp noir story hook and peppered it with supernatural material. At first, “Ten Grand” #2 felt like it lost some of that surprise and newness, with the trappings firmly in place for a simple supernatural hunt. But as “Ten Grand” #2 began to unspool, there are just enough nice surprises in store that it not only matched my earlier expectations, in some ways it surpassed them.
There’s nothing wrong with the slightly more standard, predictable first half of “Ten Grand,” of course. It reminds me of comics like “Criminal Macabre” where it matches up the crime and horror genres. Joe’s hunting for the missing Sarah is good when the book focuses just on that; it lets Straczynski introduce new concepts like the eyeless Johnny, or the type of demon called the Fleshist. They’re fun and interesting ideas, and they match up well with what we’ve learned about the word of “Ten Grand” to date. And if that’s all we had from start to finish in “Ten Grand” #2, I’d have been happy enough. It’s not out-of-this-world crazy, but it’s satisfying and enjoyable to read.
What caught my attention, though, was how it’s only the second issue and the creators are already challenging readers on some of the assumptions and ideas presented last month. “Ten Grand” #2 digs into the entire purpose and mythology of the series and starts to question it, and that’s where the book shifts into something more interesting than originally expected. I like that twist; what seemed like in many ways background noise is instead becoming part of the main plot, while at the same time not abandoning the original plot point of the missing Sarah. “Ten Grand” #2’s script keeps the comic from feeling linear, instead opening up the series to all sorts of possibilities. That’s not something normally seen quite so quickly in a brand-new comic, and it makes me feel like “Ten Grand” is going to keep readers jumping for a while.
Less surprising is that Templesmith’s art looks great. Its rough edges look great, especially when mixed with those vibrant colors that Templesmith knows just when to use. When Joe and Johnny are standing outside of the Divine Will building, the outlines of their figures look perfect in that pale green light that infuses the panel; it’s natural yet creepy at the same time, a perfect combination. Those muted shades then act as a strong counterpoint for the bright lights of the club scene, or the blazing red and yellow of a demon exploding. Templesmith’s color sense is pretty near perfect, and an integral part of his art. That’s not to discount his line work, though. That’s in strong command too; just look at Debbie’s eyes when she’s up on the roof, and her dialogue shifts from malicious to scared. Even if the words weren’t there, you’d be able to tell exactly when the flip happens, because of how well he’s rendered her expressions. It’s great to see Templesmith regularly illustrating a series I’m reading again.
“Ten Grand” #2 is another successful comic from Straczynski and Templesmith, and I have to hand it to them for giving their readers everything they wanted and then somehow more. With the doubts and surprises that have been added into the book, I feel like this is a comic that I’m into for the long haul. “Ten Grand” is definitely one of the big debuts for 2013.