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The artistic rise and fall of Ten Grand

Ten Grand
Originally published by Image Comics, on May 1st, 2013

Back in the summer of 2013, Ten Grand swiftly became one of the numerous horror oriented comics books published. It was also the inaugural offering created by Joseph Michael Straczynski, an American screenwriter, television producer and director, and comic book writer that became a prominent name in the Image Comics collective. Ten Grand was a film noir story with a wicked supernatural twist of its own.

Ten Grand was unquestionably a derivate comic book, featuring fictional character Joe Fitzgerald as a disorderly mob enforcer, a hit-man that went to hell once he and his sweetheart, Laura, were brutally murdered. Although Joe Fitzgerald’s afterlife condemned him to hell, and Laura, on the other hand, has been pitied and sent to Heaven, except that an Angel intervenes and grants Joe Fitzgerald a settlement: To serve under the forces of good and every time he dies in a righteous cause, he will get to see his beloved again for merely five minutes after his passing.

The comic book, however, resembles a compound between classic titles as horrid Hellraiser, neo-Gothic The Crow, and the contemporary and modernised hell sent, Spawn. It is a perfectly balanced publishing featuring elements of the aforementioned comic books, although tortuous and retaining a heart that until date, remains weirdly distinct.

The comic book storyline prevailed mostly due to its attention to shallow details, and the thrilling ambience. Joe Fitzgerald held a diversity of talismans and apparatuses that provided him with leverage while slaughtering spot-on vision of memorable demons, back-allies and demented afterlife. There were, somehow, spooky and intelligent encounters that took place with such otherworldly beasts, providing the comic book with a hardboiled vibe while Joe Fitzgerald was attempting to unlock the strangeness that gave the series a more straightforward narrative approach.

Ben Templesmith’s writhing artwork on the early issues carefully transitioned from aesthetic illustrations to vivid hallucinations, devising a compelling urban panorama, machiavellian and disturbing, perhaps taunting and magnificently eerie, it gave the comic book a life to sustain one’s breath. Ben Templesmith, particularly on Ten Grand, revels in shadows, not chiaroscuro but the wickedness that exists underneath things which are hidden from the cleansing light of the sun, inching, worming and indefinite, at the edge of your periphery, scratchy lines in deep reds and browns and highlights of un-light. In his personal and distinctive illustrative style, Ben Templesmith left a recognisable mark in the comic book series until the fifth issue, the time of his departure. Rumours spread that Ben Templesmith suffered a creative block while working on Ten Grand, which lead him to struggle to finish his work, and that at a certain time, Joseph Michael Straczynski chose to make a switch, or perhaps it was Ben Templesmith’s choice to departure. One may say that Ten Grand was deeply rooted in Ben Templesmith’s gritty, dark and grotesquely combined with Joseph Michael Straczynski’s storyline that made the comic book, a distinguished impression in noir supernaturalism.

Undoubtedly, Ten Grand suffered repercussions with the abandonment of Ben Templesmith and due replacement by C. P. Smith, since the comic book has not been the same ever since the artwork drastically transmuted, its core essence somehow, fell and failed to capture the readership it once had. Needless to say, in artwork, C.P. Smith is nothing at all like Ben Templesmith. But, then again, few are. Shuffling artwork teams pass far too often in mainstream comics, and always as a disservice to the larger storyline, the distinctness of Joseph Michael Straczynski’s narrative, so rooted in Ben Templesmith’s thematic boundary, could not truly be served by anyone else. So, perhaps a sparkling structural coincidence, the narrative feel shifts on its axis apart in the fifth issue and C.P. Smith just seizes it.

The ensuing decline of Ten Grand as a comic book was not entirely induced by the artwork as one may have expected, in the second half of the series, Joe Fitzgerald ventures through the afterlife as the entire trajectory of the storyline significantly shifted. Alternatively to a supernatural crime storyline in which the reader is swallowed, the series head towards a climactic clash between heaven and hell that at the very bottom, does not seem to capture one’s attention. Ten Grand has proven to be a storyline that had much to offer, encouraging adventures into crimes relinquished from earthly perception to downfall into a commonly known strategy in which religion is rammed as the base of the storyline.

As an aside, The Walking Dead has also recently had the most profound artwork modification in one hundred and ten issues with the beginning of the ‘All Out War’ storyline. Following the ordinarily slapdash Charlie Adlard on pencils is the superb artists Stefano Guadiano. Stefano Guadiano gives an authority and squad to the work seen at no point in Charlie Adlard’s run on the book. Cliff Rathburn colouring is the undiscovered all-star of the series and meshes Charlie Adlard’s defining take on the characters with Stefano Guadiano’s powerful inking in the best-looking storyline of the series.

Either you are or not, a fan of horror comic books, and as always, your viewpoints are more than esteemed by leaving your response, suggestions for further articles, or constructive criticism in the comment section.

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