TEN GRAND forges ahead, this time bringing us closer to Joe by revealing more about his past. In the wake of last month's deadly ending-and-beginning for Joe, there's some reflecting to do.
In case it hasn't hit yet, the cycle is really important here, and Straczynski throws us some allusions to really drive the point home. The "Mother And Child Reunion" mention is especially clever; couching a chicken-and-egg comparison in a Paul Simon reference makes it a more natural part of the dialogue, but doesn't go so subtle as to miss the point. Dropping things back to an older flavor of pop culture, the Divine Comedy imagery is heavy (and has been since Issue #1). Laura is Joe's heavenly Beatrice, and he's caught in the worst sort of Purgatorial cycle on his way to her. TEN GRAND has the unexpected side effect of making me want to catch up on my Dante.
The flashback sequence has the emotional impact of a hammer wrapped in velvet; on the surface, it's a sweet memory of Joe's courtship of Laura, but every piece of their story -- from his overzealous gifts to win her affection to his genuine change in nature (and career) -- shows just how important this woman is. Since we're in pulpy noir territory, that naturally means that something awful is about to happen to her, and we learn that things are worse than just the pain of five-minutes-in-heaven (he's even shorted the proverbial seven by two minutes!) followed by grueling duty until next-death.
I waxed poetic about it in my review of Issue #1, but I'm still fascinated by the art on this book. It's so textured, so infused with emotion, so right for this story. Stylistically, it's anything but mainstream, but this isn't exactly a mainstream book, and I'd probably be disappointed with anything other than Templesmith's gorgeous, evocative painting.
The morgue sequence felt off; it's clear from the soul-stone-destroying power blast that there was something significant going on, but I can't really discern what that was supposed to be. Up until the moment of the surge, it seemed like the morgue was going to be a dead end, and I can't help but feel like Joe's attempt to communicate with Sarah's soul echo was a waste of time. (Sound off in the comments if you see something in this that I didn't; I'm fully prepared to be wrong here!)
It all comes down to the last five pages. They're beautiful to look at, and they're a game-changer for the story; a slow-motion sequence of the stakes raising even higher for Joe. I have to find out what's next, because this isn't flashback, this isn't resolved, and if they've done nothing else, JMS and Templesmith have gotten me really attached to Laura and her ending.