Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joe the Barbarian Issues 5-8

Holy shit, I can't believe its been nearly a year since I did a review for the first four issues of this comic. This review for the second half of this comic series, is gonna an exercise in brevity compared to that earlier review.

Simply put, the second half of this series didn't live up to the set up of the first half. 

The first four issues introduce Joe, a young kid who is home alone and going through a life threatening hypoglycemic hallucination.  In his hallucination Joe is swept off to a fantasy world where his toys are real, and he has to save them from an evil being, who is taking over their world.  While going through this wild hallucination, Joe is also trying to maneuver his way through his house so that he can get some sort of sugar into his body  so he can live.  His movements through the house also correlate to his movements through the fantasy realm, and his actions in one place mirror his actions in another.

The first four issues also introduce the cast of characters that populate the series.  Unfortunately, in the second half of this series, these characters fail to really do much of anything or serve any kind of purpose.  Sure, Jack, Joe's pet rat, and samurai side kick is extremely useful, and saves Joe's hide more than once, but the other characters, namely Zxxxy, or whatever her name was, and Smoot the giant dwarf, don't really do much, or change throughout the series.  They sort of just seem to be there for the sake of it...Maybe Grant Morrison just thought every fantasy story needs some kind of fellowship.  I kept thinking Morrison would do more with them, or that, in some well delivered plot twist, they would turn out to be something more than they appear, either in the fantasy world, or in the real world, but that never happened. 

Most disappointingly, the ending didn't really deliver the goods.  I don't want to spoil anything, but the last issue wrapped things up way too nicely for my tastes.  It isn't that it was a bad ending, it's just that it didn't really seem like the right ending.

When I got my hands on the 8th issue, I re-read the entire series one issue right after the other, and things were going along pretty good, until I reached the final issue, and the connections between the two worlds got a bit shaky, and the plot seemed to lose it's way.  I don't know it Morrison was just trying to finally wrap up this series so he could move on, or if it is just an example of a good idea that didn't quite get executed to its fullest potential.  Either way, the ending left me feeling disappointed.

I have a little personal theory about what befell this series: I think what happened is that Sean Murphy delivered insanely awesome art that blew Morrison away, and as a result, Morrison kept writing crazy shit for the guy to draw that would also look insanely awesome.  But then Morrison sort of wrote himself into a corner and had to resort to less than stellar plot twists to properly wrap everything up.

Don't get me wrong, I really do think this is an pretty damn good comic, it's just that it didn't deliver given my high expectations for what the creative team of Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy is capable of.  Also, I should add that my disappointment lies at the hands of Morrison.  Murphy's art is great, and I'm pretty much at the point where I'd read any book with his name attached to it.

Despite not living up to my high expectations and failing to deliver as awesome of an ending as I wished for, this is still a very good fantasy comic and definitely worth a read.  I might have been a bit let down, but the journey is still great, and one that was almost perfect.  This thing comes out in hardcover graphic novel format sometime this summer.  Keep an eye out for it!

Overall 8 issue Grade: B-

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