Joe the Barbarian #2 review

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 joethebarbarian2

Sorry we’ve been out. It seemed time was going a little too fast, as if no sooner had we finished the most recent Weekly Recommendations, we had a whole other set to do. Well, now that things have slowed down a bit and I’ve got me some free time, let’s have a look at somewhat-recent comic, Joe the Barbarian #2. Ol’ Dave and I both tried out the first issue, but Dave didn’t like it as much as I did. He decided not to get issue #2, but did want to hear what I thought of it. So, should Dave have dropped Joe the Barbarian?

Answer: I’m not sure yet. Grant Morrison’s definitely taking his time in letting the story unfold. Sure, much more happens here than in the first issue, and it’s pretty entertaining. Yet I get the feeling he’s still holding some cards to his vest, so to speak. I’m not a regular fantasy reader, so the elements Morrison’s playing with here don’t seem as familiar to me as they may be to others, but he certainly calls attention to how recognizable some of the story is. As one character says, “The journery– arduous, companions on the way, et cetera! Traditional rules apply!” I get the feeling Morrison plans to either comment on these tried and true mainstays of fantasy or turn them on their head.

But that hasn’t happened yet. For now, we get a reversal of the first issue, which took place in the real world. Issue 2 takes place primarily in Joe’s fantasy world, where his toys are the protectors of the Iron Kingdom and his pet mouse is a sword-slinging barbarian warrior. A great evil threatens the world and Joe, the prophecized “Dying Boy,” may be the only one who can stop it. Yet is this fantasy world real, or just a hallucination caused by the diabetic Joe’s glucose deficiency? And can he keep his head in the real world long enough to make it downstairs to the kitchen, where the glucose he needs to survive awaits?

Morrison’s script is definitely fun, containing a more subdued version of his trademark imagination and big ideas. Yet just like last issue, Sean Murphy’s art is what really brings this book to life. The double-page spread at the start of the issue is crammed with so much action and detail; it really sells the chaos that has consumed this fantastical world of teddy bears, robot toys and action figures. Most of the other pages aren’t this detail-packed, but it doesn’t matter; Murphy’s got a terrific grasp of storytelling, in ways both big and small. Just look at how he draws Joe’s facial expressions, for example.

You know, even though this is a Vertigo comic, there’s nothing about the book so far that makes it “unsuitable” for younger readers. Which is by no means a bad thing. If things continue to pick up (I actually thought it was three issues at first, but it’s actually eight), we could be in for a fantasy series people of all ages can enjoy.

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3 Responses to “Joe the Barbarian #2 review”

  1. davidry214 Says:

    Great work, Goki! Thanks for bringing some activity to the blog.

    Good review. I’m intrigued, but not necessarily regretting my decision to not buy. We talk a lot about “trade waiting” — certainly more often than we actually get the trades we were waiting on, lol. However, I get the vibe that this may be one of those books that really will read better in trade. I’ve gotten the first two volumes of another Vertigo book, Madame Xanadu (which I’ll review some day when I finish Vol. 2), and I feel confident that it’s best as trade reading, too.

    Joe seems like a slow burner, but while I’ve surprisingly become a little less of a Morrison fan the past two years, I still think he’ll build it to something good.

    And like you said, Sean Murphy seems to be the perfect artist for this book. In the issue I read, I was very impressed with the mood he created with his work. Even when you see good art, it’s a little rare to see art that adds as much to the feel of the book as Murphy’s does.

    Finally, interesting to read that it’s been an all-ages story so far. As we can both attest, Morrison has never been one to shy away from violence or language (or sex, for that matter). But while Vertigo started off as a “mature readers” medium, you often hear that it’s become the best place in comics for (partially) creator-owned material in general. That transformation is even more apparent if you do start seeing some all-ages stories pop up.

  2. Gokitalo Says:

    Oh yeah, I definitely think this’ll read better in trade. I don’t mind buying it in singles, though, since it’s a Vertigo mini-series and could probably use the support, even with a big name like Morrison in it.

    We’ll see if Joe the Barbarian stays all-ages, but it would be cool if DC managed to publish more creator-owned stuff in general. Although getting people to buy those series may be a challenge!

  3. davidry214 Says:

    Well, I imagine getting a decent-sized audience for creator-owned content by a big name such as Grant Morrison wouldn’t be terribly difficult, so long as the bar isn’t set too high on sales numbers. Getting buzz for creator-owned works by smaller names or especially no-names would be much more difficult under most circumstances. And since DC and Marvel expect higher sales and will cancel books that don’t hit them, it makes more sense for a writer to take a creator-owned (or partially owned) book to a smaller company, hence those companies dominating the creator-owned portion of the market. With the exception of limited forays, DC and especially Marvel don’t seem to mind missing out on that higher-risk portion of the market, though.

    Anyway, hope to keep seeing reviews!

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