Friday, January 22, 2010

Joe the Barbarian #1

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

I'm not too sure how to respond to this first issue. I see from quickly perusing a few different review sites, that I'm not the only person to have found the beginning of Morrison's newest Vertigo title to be a little problematic. Where some people are complaining that not much happens, I think my problem is more that a lot of stuff is happening that I can't recognize or comprehend just yet. All I know is I want to know more, which I suppose is the hallmark of a good monthly comic.

The book is very decompressed, and things do move rather slowly, but this doesn't bother me for two reasons: 1. I trust Morrison completely as a writer; if things are moving slowly, there's a reason for it; and 2. Sean Murphy is an amazing artist, and I would gladly buy a whole book of his interior design ideas, if they looked as good as Joe's house and bedroom look here.

The story takes its time establishing that Joe is your typical nerdy diabetic or hypoglycemic kid with an over-active imagination, good art skills, and slightly dysfunctional home life. He gets picked on by the school bullies, and rescued by the nice girl. Where some reviewers complain that the book is just trotting out old stereotypes, I think the fact that Morrison has Joe acknowledge this is proof that something more is going on. When Joe gets home, strangely leaving the front door open, he somehow gets transported to a fantasy world where his toys have come to life, and suffered some form of catastrophe. Or, he just goes into diabetic shock. I'm not really sure yet, and imagine I won't be for a while longer.

Reading this comic brought to mind a few things: Th3rd World Studios' excellent comic The Stuff of Legend was the first comparison I made, as it has similar content. I also thought of (or more like, remembered from somewhere in the depths of my memory) the CBC show The Odyssey, and the "Visions of Counterpane" stuff in William Vollmann's first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels.

While I understand that some people may have been less than satisfied with this comic, I found it fascinating and rich, and look forward to reading the rest of the series. The fact that it only cost a dollar, in my mind at least, meant that it could be as decompressed as it wanted to be, I was getting my money's worth regardless.

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