Joe the Barbarian
So, as a $1 comic, Joe the Barbarian is an amazing book. The art by Sean Murphy is rich and textured and beautifully detailed. He draws a number of full-page panels and demonstrates in them his ability to illustrate complex scenes with a perfect blend of realism and dynamic stylization. The page with the kid walking to his house as the bus drives off is simply amazing. A real masterpiece in a technical sense. Murphy has been on fire artistically since he did two issues of Hellblazer about a year ago. So I am very pleased that he will have the chance now to draw a long story and show off his considerable talents.
But that said, as an introductory chapter to an eight-issue story, I'm not sure what to make of Joe the Barbarian. We are introduced to Joe, a sickly teenage kid who is the cliched artist-type tormented by the cliched school bullies. We see that Joe comes from a broken home and that he considers his attic-bedroom a refuge from the ugliness of the outside world. And we also see Joe suffering a brief hallucinatory break from reality, where his toys come to life and introduce him to a nightmarish world. But we don't know where this story is headed or what this book is really about. In other words, there are a lot of introductions but not much action or development or even basic foreshadowing.
On one hand, it's difficult to rate Grant Morrison's story so far, because it's unfair to expect too much from the first chapter in an eight-chapter story. But on the other hand, aside from a few snappy lines ("This fairytale's on a one-way trip to hell"), nothing in the story made me want to read issue two. Joe is not particularly interesting as a character. Hallucinations are not particularly novel (especially in Grant Morrison stories). And talking toys have been done before. So, to be honest, if the art weren't so damn good, I don't think I'd make any effort to pick up future issues. It's especially hard to be enthusiastic about this book because it's poorly edited; it has typos, repeat words, and some very choppy dialogue in one key scene.
Joe the Barbarian may turn into a wonderfully written series. But the first issue is a very, very, very slow start.
Last edited by Eli Katz
on Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.