Joe Fitzgerald is not a likeable character. This is a former member of organized crime, a man who made his living exploiting the weak through violence and murder. So why is there a connection? When Ten Grand issue #4 opens, Joe is dreaming of his wife, a murdered woman who is supposed to be in heaven. Joe struck a deal with the angels when he perished. He will work with them, work off his sins, and in return, when he dies, he spends a few minutes with his beloved before he’s brought back to life. The deal sucks, but there is never an ounce of pity. Joe knows what he’s done, and he doesn’t complain about the price he’s paying.
The dream, or nightmare, finds Joe’s wife being tortured in Hell. Joe needs to find out if it is true, so he calls to the angel he works with. Problem is, she’s gone, and Joe is running out of options. Joe needs to get to the other side, he needs to enter the dark realms and find his wife. How he goes about this is touching and sad. Joe engages with a spirit, a lost soul who died by her own hand due to unrequited love. Joe must lie to her, but it breaks his heart. It’s the most humanity Joe has shown to anyone outside of his wife.
Demon confrontations, S&M devils guarding thin walls that can lead to the other side, a dark voyage started by our hero for righteous reasons. J. Michael Straczynski's script expands in issue #4. Ten Grand, with all its demonology, has always been about love. The power of it and what we’re willing to sacrifice for it. In this issue, Joe lays everything on the line for the love of the woman whose loved changed him. Amidst all the darkness of the story, the light of Stracynzki's subtext makes all the difference.
Another huge difference is the art of Ben Templesmith. The mechanism by which Templesmith pencils/paints and colors his work is hard to pinpoint. Elements of fine art painting blend with harsh comic book noir styles, and both are covered with these layered, dirty, nasty colors. Templesmith is using textures and layers to give Ten Grand its own reality. The work is nothing short of brilliant.
Ten Grand is absolutely the sleeper hit of the summer. The creativity level here is staggering.