Joe’s Comics makes a welcome return with the grim tale of a faustian bargain turned on its ear.
There are few people in the world who understand the art and business of storytelling better than J. Michael Straczynski. The creator of wildly popular television shows, comic books, and movies, JMS as he’s thankfully known, has had more than his share of ups and downs in the entertainment business. His latest venture resurrects the long-dormant Joe’s Comics imprint – this time published by Image Comics – in the hopes of challenging the reigning corporate model of producing funny books.
This time around, Joe’s Comics’ first offering is a sinister tale that could best be described as occult crime, I suppose. As always, JMS revels in coming at his audience, not to mention his plot, from unexpected angles. The story of a former mob enforcer named Joe Fitzgerald, who helps normal folks with problems of a supernatural origin, Ten Grand unfolds organically. JMS reveals Joe’s tragic back story gradually, allowing plot and character exposition to intersect only when each serves the other equally. The result is an exquisitely balanced tale full of poignant, aching character moments that match the rising physical action of the plot, beat for beat.
Ben Templesmith shows up to the inaugural launch of the rejuvenated Joe’s Comics with some of the best work of his career. In the past, I’ve criticized the muddiness of some of his layouts and backgrounds, feeling they diluted the clarity of his visual storytelling. With Ten Grand, Templesmith showcases a newfound restraint and maturity that services JMS’ well-crafted script with clear, readable layouts that refrain from sacrificing the atmosphere and grittiness required by his story.
During its first incarnation, Joe’s Comics quickly gained a well-deserved reputation for original, high quality comic books. Titles such as Midnight Nation and Rising Stars still rate as some of the most beloved books of the early 2000s. It’s a relief then, that the imprint has not only retained that same level of craftsmanship and production but built upon it in this strong debut title.
J.M. Straczynski (W), Ben Templesmith (A) • Image Comics/Joe’s Comics, $2.99, May 1, 2013.