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The Power of Imagination

February 4, 2010

     So, mostly because the cover looked interesting and it was cheap, I decided to pick up Grant Morrison’s latest offering for Vertigo: Joe the Barbarian.  This kid, presumably in high school, named Joe, has a pretty tough life.  His father is dead, having died in some war or another, and his mother is desperately trying to make sure that they don’t lose their house.  He’s rather disconnected from his surroundings and is a social outcast, ostracized by bullies and not even sympathizing with those who try to comfort him.  He retreats into his sketches and imaginings of other worlds rather than face the realities of this one.  However, one day, after an awkward school trip to a local veterans’ cemetary, he starts seeing images of another world as he lies on his bed.  He attributes his hallucinations to his hypoglycemia, but before he can do anything, he travels to this other world again, where people from his fantasies, like Batman, Robin, the Spirit, Lobo, and obvious Transformers ripoffs warn him about something attackign this fantasy realm.  He then snaps back to reality, where he stares at the toys on his floor… which are exactly the same as the people he just saw.

     This first issue was a rather strange one, as it was really just introducing us to Joe and his total disconnect with his real world.  I’d say the only thing we really have a grasp on is his personality and situation.  Apparently, he’s actually dying, according to interviews on the story (likely due to his hypoglycemia), and this is his mind going crazy right before the end.  I would hope that it’s actually diabetes, since that would make more sense medically for his death, but it could be that his death is entirely unrelated to that condition.  I’m just speculating.  Besides, fiction has a bad tendency of getting medical conditions wrong.  Now that’s out of the way, I really like him as a character, and the art by Sean Murphy is really appropriately expressive for this kind of story.  The cover in particular is good.  The dialogue is a bit odd at times, showing that Grant Morrison’s not as young and hip as he used to be.  I’m also curious if the bullies’ insult “homo” is just them crudely and inaccurately using that word or if he is actually homosexual.  However, Morrison has barely just started this book, so there’s a lot we don’t know.  All I do know is that I’m interested in the concepts, and that this was an intriguing beginning to what he promises to be an epic tale.

Plot: 8.5      Art: 9.0      Dialogue: 8.3      Overall: 8.5

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