Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Joe: The Barbarian #1 of 8
Vertigo (DC Comics)
Morrison & Murphy
Grant Morrison offers up a creator owned mini series that explores aspects of a lonely, outcast child that finds himself a figure in his own imagination when his blood sugar drops too low. It’s a look at the feelings of someone who has no one else to turn to other than his toys as well as a look at how hallucinating can open doors in your mind that broaden the scope of reality. It’s a very interesting concept that is sold well with very little dialogue in this opening chapter. However, it is the artwork that takes control of this story and makes it stand out and come alive.
The issue begins with a series of pages with little dialogue that introduces the reader to Joe. In just eight pages we learn his mother is self-involved and irresponsible to a degree. We find out that Joe’s father is dead and that Joe is very resentful of this fact as he sits in front of his grave on some sort of class trip. In addition to this we learn that Joe is very artistic and is picked on left and right by local bullies.
Once Joe returns home things begin to blur from reality to fantasy. This is where the artwork takes this comic book to a level I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.
As Joe walks through the house we are basically given a tour of the living room, kitchen, staircase, etc. The details are fascinating as the house appears to have fallen out of a 1970s Ethan Allen catalog, but it’s when we get to Joe’s attic room via a rope ladder that the issue explodes.
Joe’s attic loft has everything a boy could want. Nintendo, Atari, Star Wars action figures, Batman, Superman, Transformers, army men and a massive electric train suspended from the ceiling. This only touches the surface of what Murphy has illustrated here. It’s simply amazing the amount of detail he’s plugged into this scene.
Joe appears to be diabetic and when he fails to keep his sugar level up he gets sucked into a world where his toys interact with each other and him. He appears to have been dropped into a toy war zone as the issue ends.
The issue is a departure from what you might expect from Grant Morrison. There isn’t a lot of mystery or tangled double meanings because the lead character hardly speaks. However, the issue draws you in because Joe is so easily identifiable. Anyone going from adolescent to young adulthood most likely found an awkward stage. This is Joe’s awkward stage to the extreme. Even when a cute girl approaches him, he can’t even look her in the eye. He’s the very definition of a lost soul caught between childhood and manhood.
The comic is not perfect. It contains at least one spelling error as well as a time discrepancy where the digital clock appears to be over an hour faster than the wall clock on the very next page. The issue also has other oddities that may or may not play into the story, like Joe leaving the front door open or Joe getting a ride to the class trip only to take the bus directly home. These are small complaints but in a Grant Morrison comic you learn to study the comic not just read it so they stand out.
This issue is only a buck and you definitely get your money’s worth. The art design and work is tremendous and is not to be missed. If you were a kid in the 70s, 80s or 90s then you are sure to see some favorites in Joe’s room. The story is good, but is clearly not the appeal as the artwork takes command in the first chapter here. This is worth checking out for sure.
4 out of 5 Geek Goggles