Joe The Barbarian #1(of 8 ) - 'Chapter 1: Hypo' - Morrison and Murphy
Story - We all know that Grant Morrison can be hit and miss, the almighty Godhead can write some of the best comics of all time, and then alternately spew out incomprehensible gibberish the next month. But overall, it appers to me that his best work is his own, creator-owned stuff, Seaguy, We3, all that jazz, it's awesome. Which is why I'm glad he's got a new Vertigo series out, Joe The Barbarian.
This first issue is a very decent start, there's not a lot that happens, but it's atmospheric, and told very well. This is the story of Joe, a young diabetic who is about to lose his house, who forgets to take his Insulin and trips out a magical fantasy world. What I like about this is how Morrison tells the story quite subtly. You may not even notice on first read-through that the Bully stole Joe's chocolate. I didn't notice that Joe left the door to his house open. There's no exposition, and it's a good thing, Morrison tried a kind of hyper-aggressive storytelling in Final Crisis and it was a massive failure, but this is a step away from that, and it works. This first issue moves quite slowly, some might say too slowly, but I think it works. I particularly loved the 2 or 3 silent pages where Joe walks through his house, Morrison has talked about how Joe's fantasy world mirrors the layout of his house, and while some readers probably skimmed through these pages, I imagine they contain some clues and set-up for the rest of the book.
The teenage angst is a little wrote at the moment, but it still rings true, maybe it's because I'm only just out of my teenage years, but I'm still a sucker for these kinds of stories. The page where Joe insults his dead dad is a real kicker.
But this isn't just a tale of teenage woes, there's a fantastical element, and it's pretty fantastic, you can tell that Morrison is having the time of his life writing the dialogue from the talking toys, blood and stuffing, etc, it's a delight. And seeing all thse toys come to life is pretty special, You've got Cowboys, Transformers, GI Joe, Dinosaurs, even some DCU characters like Lobo and Batman and Robin. Is this the first time Batman has been in a Vertigo book? Can they do that? Even if it's an action figure? I saw a Superman action figure, but he wasn't in the fantasy world.
Joe The Barbarian is off to a slow start, I'm not quite sure what to make of it at this point, I think by #2 or #3 we'll have a better idea of where this is all going, but at this point, it's all promise, and I'm looking forward to see where Morrison takes us.
Art - Whereas Morrison may have slightly disappointed here, Sean Murphy certainly didn't. Murphy is an interesting case, he gets a lot of buzz and critical praise online, but he hasn't really drawn that many comics, 2 issues of Hellblazer and a Scarecrow story (and that Wolverine Alphabet thing, which is genius). But with Joe The Barbarian, he's proving he's more than just hype. His work here is truly stellar. The spread of the graveyard, the page of Joe's street, it all looks real and highly detailed. And the fantasyland is equally impressive. But I was most impressed with his design work on the house, in his Vertigo 'On The Ledge' Editorial, he talks about how he designed the house, and it is awesome. Joe's room is pretty much the best bedroom ever, the train, the rope ladder, it's just beautiful. On this showing, I think Murphy has what it takes to be the next big thing. just amazing. I hope he keeps it up.
Best Line - 'This fairytale's on a one-way trip to hell' Oh yeah.
Also, I didn't notice any grammatical errors or repeat words.