I realized today that I have committed a huge oversight. For months, no years I’ve threatened to do a favorite graphic novel post. I have so many favorites, it’s taken me forever to figure out where to start…
Then I realized, I knew exactly where to start…
Joe The Barbarian
Written by: Grant Morrison
Pencilled by: Sean Murphy
Inked by: Sean Murphy
Cover Color by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Todd Klein
Page Count: 224
U.S. Price: 29.99
How do you describe Joe The Barbarian? Well here’s the short version; 13-year-old boy with a father who never returned from the war, a house on the brink of being sold, a bully problem at school and oh yea type 1 diabetes. When all the stresses of Joe’s young life come to head he misses the signs that are so critical to a person with diabetes and missing those signs may just get him killed.
Joe loses track of his sugar intake and goes into hypoglycemic shock. He begins to hallucinate that he’s in another world, a world populated by living versions of the playthings in his room, a world where death has taken over and only “the dying boy” can save them. The book takes us in and out of the hallucinations from Joe’s point of view. The trek he attempts, from his attic bedroom to the kitchen and the saving grace of soda becomes a journey through an unknown but decidedly familiar landscape. Morrison and Murphy do an amazing job of laying the fantasy world over the real world, stairs become mountains an overflowing sink a waterfall. They convey that feeling of the familiar suddenly being alien so well it’s hard to put the book down at times.
But the story isn’t just about the physical journey. Joe has to face fears, doubts, trust and abandonment issues, this truly is his vision quest. And you root for him every step of the way.
This is one of those stories that can scare you as a parent. It doesn’t glorify hallucinations but it has that kind of the trial he endured was punishment enough feeling. The story resolves without him ever getting the stern talking to or smack to the back of the head that I probably would have given him for messing with his sugar. I do think the messages in the book outweigh that aspect but like everything it’s for the individual to decide.
In my opinion this is an amazing adventure story with a hero you’ll root for and the kind of art that makes this book a definite repeat read, you’ll notice new things on every page every time you read it.
I give Joe the barbarian a 5 out of 5 and a heartfelt recommendation to buy the deluxe edition hardcover and put it on your shelf, you’ll read it again and again. This one is a modern classic.