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That “Spell” Looks an Awful Lot Like a Rudimentary Airplane

May 14, 2010

     The dying boy’s adventure continues in Joe the Barbarian #4, which opens with Joe waking up at the top of his stairs, with water sliding down, the lights off, and his rat on his shoulder.  As he looks down, he suddenly warps back to the other world, where Chakk is trying to make sure he’s okay.  See, Smoot just feel asleep, and Joe tripped on him.  But Joe seems to have been hurt with Deathcoat bite at some point, and that’s hurting him.  The guys with skulls on their heads, who actually are not King Death (my mistake), find him and take him back to their workshop, Inventoria, where they “make magic,” which is really just science.  There, they nurse Joe back to help with the help of Zyxy, a young woman who invented the antiseptic bandage and is working on an airplane.  The “magicians” offer to give them magic weapons, which are things like batteries, since they’ve taken a “vow of cowardice,” and they show our heroes a TV that depicts Joe in the real world.  That’s what they were looking at in the last issue.  Joe’s basically going to have to stop King Death from destroying both worlds and all that jazz.  Then, as the trio relax for a bit, the Deathcoats storm Inventoria.  Zyxy is still a novice, so she wants to help, and despite the orders of her superiors, she gets her flying machine ready to help Joe, Chakk, and Smoot escape.  Joe has Chakk add a fan blade to the front of the airplane because it’s “an important detail,” and the now quartet flies off as Inventoria falls and the last light upstairs in Joe’s house goes out.  Did I mention they’re being chased by Deathcoats riding manta rays with energy cannon batteries on their backs?

     Well, you know, this series is still just plain fun.  You’d think it’d be so much more morbid with the diabetes and stuff hanging over its head, but I think it’s rather clear that Grant Morrison very much intends for Joe to survive.  After all, he said that this was a story written in honor of people with conditions like diabetes.  Again, there’s still that ambiguity as to whether or not that other world is real, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly eal, even if it does mirror our world a lot.  The whole thing is just so wonderfully constructed, right down to the ridiculousness of the people in Inventoria using lighters and lightbulbs as “magic” and refusing to fight because of their vows.  Did I mention that the head of Inventoria has car mirrors on his shoulders?  Of course, half of this is made possibly by Sean Murphy’s superb pencils.  The way he draws the other two “magicians” doing their ridiculous poses as the head magician tries to explain his theory of the two universes is hilarious.  The whole issue just looks so cool, and there’s absolutely nothing technically wrong with his art. And what’s not to love about the magaicians’ ridiculous outfits?  Yes, everything about them is just ridiculous.  There’s no other word for it.  This is one of my favorite books to read every month, which makes me sad that it’s only just a miniseries.  This has been one of the gateways into non-superhero comic books for me, and I really couldn’t have picked a better series with which to start.

Plot: 9.0      Art: 9.0      Dialogue: 9.0      Overall: 9.0

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