In Review: Ten Grand #12

This has become one of my favorite sagas. A man fights Heaven and Hell for his girl.

The cover: Could it be true? Could this possibly happen? Or is this only a flashback meant to raise readers’ hopes before dashing them? C. P. Smith teases readers with an image of Joe and Laura watching the sun set while sitting on a park bench. Maybe they’re in Heaven? Hell, the way this book twists around, it could be anything. What is easy to discern is that Smith has created a touching moment that would be Joe’s Heaven on Earth. Overall grade: A

The story: What’s left for Joe Fitzgerald to do? He’s defeated the demons of Hell who were planning to take out Heaven, Laura has gone to Heaven, and his soul is safe. There’s nothing left to do but “Going Home” as this final chapter is titled, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. J. Michael Straczynski doesn’t hold back anything. Joe knows there is someone in Hell he has to see. Someone he has to have a word with. He descends to the fifth circle of Hell and sees a modern train speed by. He goes to the tracks and finds his former boss, Mr. Antonio. Joe finally understands why Mr. Antonio sent him on the last job that changed his and Laura’s lives. It’s a stunner and I’m not going to reveal it. After Joe explains things to the reader, he has something to do to Mr. Antonio, but he can’t do it alone. He needs the help of the angel accompanying him. The reader doesn’t get to hear any part of their conversation, save for Joe’s loud, “Because you owe me. That’s why.” Then the worst possible thing is done to Mr. Antonio. If you think there’s nothing worse than can be done to a person in Hell, Joe’s found it. It’s sick, twisted and absolutely fitting. That’s it, right? Time for Earth, right? Oh, no. Hell, no. Pages 11 -14 are probably the most graphic thing I’ve seen this series do. That’s saying something, considering blasphemes from Hell have appeared and taken innocents, let alone traveling through Hell itself. It’s horrible because the reader needs it to happen. Joe has to do it or he won’t get what he wants. And what he wants is not what you’re expecting. The last five pages are the payoff. This is what the series has been leading to and it’s worth it. It’s nothing grandiose, it’s what any man would want. Overall grade: A+

The art: Two different artists on this issue for two very different locations. C.P. Smith does the artwork in Hell, Pages 1 – 4 and 7 – 14, and Matthew Dow Smith does the artwork on Earth, Pages 5 – 6 and 15 – 21. Their styles are suited for the locations. Smith has done a sensational job on Hell in previous issues. With the epic battle concluded last issue, the place doesn’t look so bad, but that’s what makes this place so evil. What’s happening to Mr. Antonio seems like it wouldn’t be much, yet as the story proceeds it becomes more horrific, and that’s the beauty of Smith’s work. It crawls into you and rips you apart. This is even more apparent on Pages 11 – 14. I gasped on Page 12 and recoiled at what happened. What one character is doing rivals the violence of anything shown happening in Hell, and the truly terrifying thing is I wanted it to happen. It’s graphic as anything, but I wanted–needed–it to happen. This is the perfect match of art with text. Matthew Dow Smith’s style of art is very different from C.P. Smith’s. It’s heavy lined work that reminds me of European comics. It makes the final three paged scene powerful because it’s almost primitive, cementing the baseness of Joe’s desire. He’s a man, and what else would he–or any of us–want in the end? The final page’s gradual pull away is like an ascension. It’s glorious. Overall grade: A+

The colors: C.P. Smith colors his own work and that was the right choice by Image and Joe’s Comics. He knows exactly where and when to make an image pop, and when he does, stand back so you’re not caught in the splatter. I really like the backgrounds he uses for Hell, because it’s more peacefully than what’s been previously shown, yet contains just enough chaos to keep readers on edge. Blond colors Matthew Dow Smith’s pages. His colors are just as striking as those set in Hell. The pale reds used on Page 6 are startling, especially behind Joe in that final panel. The final three pages use yellow and orange brilliantly. To tell what for would spoil things. Rest assured, it’s beautiful. I loved how the colors dimmed with each panel on the final page, showing through color how this story is now over. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue and narration (same font), angel speak, story title, and sounds come down from Heaven above from Troy Peteri. I’ve loved the thin line work he’s done on this book. Such slender words make the humans more frail and everyone’s situation seemingly precariously close to collapse. He closes this out in excellent style. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: This has become one of my favorite sagas. A man fights Heaven and Hell for his girl. This could be it for Joe Fitzgerald, but someone could always raise another ten grand and seek his services. I hope this is not his only tale. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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