Thursday, February 4, 2010

Joe the Barbarian # 1

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Joe the Barbarian #1 (Vertigo, 2010)

The release of a new Grant Morrison comic should always be cause for curiosity. The release of a new Grant Morrison comic with competent artwork should be cause for celebration. After a few years of mainstream superhero features that look like the end of the world, Morrison has teamed with Sean Murphy for a new eight-issue series from Vertigo, Joe the Barbarian, and it looks completely terrific. I'm not familiar with Murphy, who apparently has drawn very few comics prior to this, but if somebody could get him to go back and redraw all those godawful issues of Batman and Final Crisis and the last Seven Soldiers that I couldn't follow and made my eyeballs bleed, I will gladly buy them again. This guy's great.

The story's nothing too spectacular yet, and that's probably for the best. The most disagreeable element of Morrison's recent comics is that there's far too much happening in far too short a time. We're never given an opportunity to get to know characters, and his artists never have a chance to establish a mood. Happily, the first issue of Joe the Barbarian is nothing but the establishment of the mood, a relaxed, slow burn about a kid living with his mom, dealing with bullies in graveyards, missing his late father and retreating to the sort of attic super-room that you wish you had when you were a kid.

What happens next seems to have elements of Kingdom of the Wicked, a very good book by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli from a few years back in which childhood fantasies, acted out with toys, seem to be reflected in a parallel reality. It looks promising if derivative, as Joe looks to be the savior of a kingdom made up of his action figures and dolls, but there's a last-page cliffhanger twist to that setup which had me grinning from ear to ear. Absolutely nobody in comics writes cliffhangers as well as Morrison. I can't wait to see what will happen next. Recommended.

No comments: