Joe the Barbarian is one of those stories that make you want to hate on Grant Morrison a little less than you do. That is until you pick up one of his Batman stories than you can pretty much hate on Grant all you want.
Joe is a misunderstood, bullied loner whose imagination is often his only place of refuge. His father has died in the Iraq war and now, with no money, Joe and his mom face losing their home as well. Joe also suffers from Type 1 diabetes and one fateful day, Joe’s blood sugar drops dangerously low and he falls into a vivid fantasy land where he is the prophesied savior of a crumbling kingdom. Joe must travel a landscape that is much like his own house, and the intense adventures his mind conjures up as he struggles to escape just from his bedroom is epic and vast. Joined by his pet rat who becomes a great warrior, Joe must make it through the adventure that is his home and the fantasy kingdom in his mind that is under siege.
Joe the Barbarian is a wonderfully written tale but in itself, is not wholly original. I have read this one before in various forms. The little boy whose father is dead and is an outsider to all those around him. Whose fantasies become more real than the depressing reality he lives in. The ending itself is formulatic and predictable. But the details in between the beginning and ending are imaginative and interesting enough to keep the reader engaged.
It is Sean Murphy’s artwork that separates this graphic novel from others and his ability to bring Morrison’s vision to life is spot on. In lesser hands Joe the Barbarian could have become trite and boring. But Murphy brings power and dimension to the tale.
Altogether a good read.