There’s a lot to like in J. Michael Straczynski and Ben Templesmith’s “Ten Grand” #1 from dark gorgeous art to an intriguing spin on an old concept. However, the first issue leans heavily on some tired cliches and the book stumbles as a result.
Straczynski’s concept here — a former “hit man” of sorts is killed, then resurrected by supernatural forces to do their bidding — is not bad. It’s not wholly unique (what story is these days?) but it’s got just enough interesting angles to make it compelling. How our hero contacts his “Angel Source” is smart and visually stunning, and the way he comes to his “good deeds” (as well as the reward he receives) are all clever. The writing is tight and the story is well paced, giving just enough world building for everything to make sense, and yet moves the plot forward sufficiently for a first issue.
Unfortunately, Stracazynski’s story also depends on some overused elements as well — such as a now-deceased “perfect wife” to motivate the protagonist. To be honest, I could go my whole life without seeing another story where a man is motivated to action solely because of a dead wife/child/family that he blames himself for losing. It’s not that there can’t be a great story with this motivation at its center — but it’s just so played out and unoriginal that it really creates an uphill battle in making a reader connect to a story above every other they’ve seen employing the same device.
Independent of the character motivations though, there’s a lot to like — namely Templesmith’s art, which is the real star, as expected. Loosely assembled, but precise, it’s full of life — moody gorgeous life! His pages have an illustrative depth, energy and movement that I wish more comics could find. The book is unquestionably dark, as much of Templesmith’s work is, but the tone of the book and the visuals match up well. Possibly most impressive are the moments of blistering lightness and beauty buried in the muck of this world that Templesmith finds — those moments are euphoric and stunning in contrast to all the darkness that surrounds them.
“Ten Grand” #1 didn’t blow me away as I hoped it might, but there was more than enough good here to warrant a look at issue #2. The art alone warrants it. The story has a ton of potential, especially now that the pesky “wife in refrigerator” trope is out of the way.