Ten Grand is a hard book for me to read with any consistent authorial viewpoint in my head. Written by Joe Michael Straczynski and painted by Ben Templesmith, this book’s visual identity is very similar to another Image title, Fell. The general scenario and scumbags that populate Snowtown also seem to reoccur here, with lots of people standing around in hideous streets and buildings being horrible, it’s rather confusing. Like that first time you picked up a Daniel Way/Steve Dillon Punisher comic…. but it wasn’t Garth Ennis. I get the feeling there’s going to be a lot of that reaction.
And then it gets worse because suddenly this book delves into the territory of Wormwood Gentlemen Corpse.
What that means is we have a private detective/enforcer walking the line between heaven and hell and getting involved wherever he sees fit. This is a magical realism comic, and the realism it chooses to present us with is John Constantine PI, in a world where heaven and hell battle daily on the streets, are summoned in stripper joints and hack into our wifi. And people… well, people are nothing, we’re in the way, we’re ephemera. A conduit, a means to an end, flotsam and jetsam. And that’s where I learned to quit worrying and love Ten Grand. Because, if DC Comics want to cancel Hellblazer and give us a watered down John Constantine in the New 52, that’s fine. Ten Grand will give us Constantine done right.
To that end, there’s a little too much narration for my liking, if I’m wanting a Constantine, I don’t want to hear exactly what’s going on in his head. Again, these may be my own expectations, as that style does fit the pulp PI motif very well.
But there’s a deep sense of despair, but a desire to not go down without a fight that lifts my poor cold heart on a Tuesday evening like this. What can I say, I always like to read about people who have it far worse than myself.
One nice touch is that the city this comic is set in, is unmentioned. The currency – his time costs ten grand, thousand - but ten thousand what? Dollars, pounds, euros, it doesn’t say, and the ambiguity is right there in the title. This could be anywhere. Not quite anywhen, technology plays its part here, but it’s a time that echoes from the nineteenth century. But what that does, it give the characters your accents, the accents of those you know and those around you. It’s set in the really dodgy part of Your Town, and it’s the kind of place you’ll find a demon as much as you will an angel. In that respect, you may want to avoid the audio version that comes with this comic, accessible via a QR code. Suddenly the characters, kept so ambiguous in the comic, now have a voice. The narration fits right in though….In terms of JMS’ previous’ work, this mines some similar territories as Midnight Nation, but a less glamourised, a more down to earth and jobsworth take on it all. But it’s not Constantine, it’s not Wormwood, it’s not Richard Fell, it’s Joe. And that works fine.Ten Grand #1 by JMS and Ben Templesmith is published next week. Review copy courtesy of Image Comics.