Joe The Barbarian isn’t my favorite comic. There is a middle-portion of the story that I found annoyingly boring. I kinda wanted to see a “Choose Your Own Adventure” segment of this book where the little runt dies. “Take that, kid with hypoglycemia and a newly dead, war veteran, father.”
Then I read the book again. Actually, at the moment of me writing this, I’ve read Joe The Barbarian six times.
Sean Murphy is why I’ve continued to go back to this book in recent weeks. His artwork oozes effort and homage to a forgotten era of most of our childhood. At the very beginning of Joe’s tale, the reader is given quick snapshots of a waify teen boy, coming home after a rainy day of school, to an empty house.
I can relate to that. I know what that kind of lonely feels like. I know what kind of imagination that fuels. As the tale matures, Murphy dances between these solitude moments and Joe’s fevered, sugar-deprived dreams of epic battles … starring Joe’s best friend, a mouse.
This is almost sounding like the Michael Jackson made for TV movie. I promise you, Joe The Barbarian has something about it that is so inviting.
Then Grant Morrison decided to phone-in the portions that really needed to keep me interested in the ride the intro so brilliantly sets you on. Whenever you have a tale where you’re following a youth down a rabbit hole, it helps to feel the fear that the character is experiencing. Instead, we were given a meandering history lesson of the lore. When we were unceremoniously drawn back to Joe’s real-life journey, we depended on Sean Murphy’s silent tension.
Joe The Barbarian is worth it. It stars a character in a familiar familial scenario, that is in dire need of probing. It’s also quite the rarity that the hero has such a unique Achilles’ heel. Morrison didn’t fully deliver when the story should have taken off, but there is still so much worth sharing and talking about in this epic tale of survival and morose fantasy.