'Joe the Barbarian', a self contained work by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy, is a quickly paced epic adventure that is also simultaneously not so epic given the reality of what is actually taking place. The story follows our main hero, Joe Manson, a boy suffering from a severe case of diabetes called Hypoglycemia that requires him to have sugar in his system or else he could fall into a coma. But after bullies steal his snacks he misses out on a meal he starts to go into a state of panic while alone at home and begins hallucinating... His room is transformed into an entirely new word, his toys have come to life, his pet rat is a brave knight and his journey down to the basement to get a bottle of soda becomes an epic quest to save a world from extinction at the hands of an invading army led by the spectre of death himself!
The denizens of this off-home-world prophecy him as the 'Dying Boy' of legend who is the only one that can save them. Is Joe really only hallucinating, or has he actually stumbled in-between two realities that co-exist and of whom he is a being that can inhabit both simultaneously? Is there further methaphor and allegory at work with regards to Joe's family life? That of the loss of a father who died serving his country leaving his mother and son financially stranded and in danger of losing their home? How does it all tie up when the journey is over? That is... if Joe can safely maneuver his way there without killing himself?
The story is told at a rather rushed pace, though perhaps it's better this way rather than dragging it out to unrealistic lengths for what is in reality a short trip, but even the distance between two points can become magnified when you are at a grave physical and mental disadvantage. It's still worth teh read and it's short enough to be enjoyed in on sitting. The tale is penned by celebrated writer Grant Morrisson who's done a lot of work for DC Comics and within 'Joe the Barbarian' you'll find all kinds of homages to DC characters in the shape of action figures that Joe posesses amongst other recognizable franchises.
The artist Sean Murphy likes to play around with deep blacks and giving shape to the world purely through light and shadow so the linework and blacks do the talking with only subtle coloring to underlie it. The version of the graphic novel we carry at our store is the deluxe hardcover edition that includes a mini making-of feature at the end where you can find rough concept drawings, character design explorations, story and panel breakdowns and learning from where Sean draws inspiration for his work, whether from his personal life or from the example of other artists such as Calvin and Hobbes' Bill Watterson. It's not a very comprehensive inclusion, but a neat bonus for anyone interested.
If this sounds like a journey you want to take, then you can find it available at our store at U.S. Cover price! Perhaps it's also best enjoyed alongside some sugary accompaniments and pop!