Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Longbox

Joe the Barbarian
issue: 1
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Sean Murphy
publisher: DC/Vertigo

Grant Morrison holds a special place in my heart.  It was his run on "New X-Men" that got me back into reading comics in a major way again.  I have to admit though, I'm not familiar with most of his recent stuff.  I paid no attention to his work on Batman, not being so big of a fan of the DC stable of heroes, but did take in his older run on Justice League.  I feel I need to preface this article with that because I don't like what I have to say next.  "Joe the Barbarian" kind of left me with a "meh" feeling after reading it.

Don't get me wrong, Sean Murphy's art in this book is the top, nothing short of fantastic.  His layouts are strong and his visual style is something that is right up my alley.  However, it is the story itself that left me wanting.

Joe is a pretty typical kid living in whatever part of the world it is that he lives in.  He lives with his mother in a fairly normal house that seems to be locked in a time vortex style-wise.  There is also some indicators that they might be in danger of losing the house.  His room is in the attic, his father is a dead veteran, and his mother is very much on him about eating his candy.  Joe is also a pretty typical underdog.  He's an artist that is picked on by his classmates and seemingly misunderstood by his peers.  There also seems to be some animosity between himself and his dead father.

It isn't until he gets home that things take their usual weird turn that are often occurring in the realm of a Vertigo book.  He comes home following a class visit to the veteran's cemetery where his father is buried and where he has a run-in with the usual bullies.  When he gets home, he makes his way up to his room, which is littered with toys and collectables.  After laying in bed for a few moments, his surroundings shift and he finds himself somewhere else and then, just as quickly, returns to his bed.  After an attempt to figure out what just happened he winds up going back again and is confronted by an army that we find out is comprised of the characters from his drawings and toys around his room.

Now, mind you, this is a pretty good set up for the most part, and like I said Murphy's art really brings this book to life.  His attention to detail is fantastic and just really brings a great deal of the depth to the page.  However, this feels like a very typical fantasy story in the vein of "Alice in Wonderland" or "Jumanji" (yeah, I went there).  That's not to say that this couldn't turn out to be an amazing piece but I always figured Grant Morrison to be a bit more out there, a bit more crazy when it came to things.  This seems a little safe for him.  All the character constructions are solid, to be fair and the dialogue is spot on as well.  I'll be picking this one up for at least two more issues to see where it goes.  I'm sure if anyone can take something like this up a notch, it's Grant Morrison.

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