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Moments of Doubt

July 19, 2010

Joe the Barbarian #6 continues Joe’s tale right from where we left off, with the soldiers leading Joe to Hearth Castle, the last bastion of light against the darkness.  Floodlights from the battlements scare off Sir Ulrik and his Deathcoats, and Adamark, the last knight of Hearth Castle, takes Joe to meet Queen Bree.  Queen Bree doesn’t feel like going out and fighting King Death.  She also sees Joe as simply a symbol, something to provide her people with morale.  She offers Joe a place in Hearth Castle, where they can wait until King Death finally tires and leaves.  Joe quietly acquiesces.  Later, Smoot and Zyxy arrive, having traveled quite far to find him.  When they find him, they suddenly find themselves in the real world, in Joe’s house.  Then, they’re back in this world.  They try to snap Joe out of it, since Joe now no longer sees any point in fighting.  Especially since Chakk/Jack is gone.  He yells at them for failing to save Chakk, but after he chases them off, they come right back in to show him Chakk’s sword.  This rekindles hope in Joe, and the three of them meet with Queen Bree.  Joe tells the Queen that he must fight and asks for a few soldiers, but Queen Bree refuses, not wanting to lose anyone else.  With his persistence, he convinces her to let them leave, and his zeal inspires Adamark and all of the soldiers of all kinds in Hearth Castle to join him.  As they ride off, the fortune-telling fish, which stayed silent ever since King Death appeared, start speaking again.  Elsewhere, King Death, who looks a tad like the Iron Knight, except with a skull underneath his helmet, provides Sir Ulrik with new soldiers and tells him to end it.  Then, in the real world, Joe finds Jack.

Of course, every quest needs to have one chapter in which the main hero doubts his ability to succeed and tries to turn away from his destiny or whatever.  In this, doubt comes in the form of Queen Bree, who is content to lose everything so long as the hearth is safe.  Considering that the Iron Knight is an obvious counterpart of Joe’s father, Queen Bree must be his mother.  Likewise, his mother isn’t fighting for the house, or the kingdom.  Very interesting parallels.  Good writing on Grant Morrison’s part.  Plus, the idea that the Iron Knight and King Death may be one and the same is really awesome.  Again, parallels with his dead father.  I’m really interested about that one panel in which Smoot and Zyxy are suddenly in the normal world.  That seems to indicate that, in fact, both worlds are real, and that this aren’t just simple hallucinations.  And, of course, there’s all sorts of typical Morrison off-the-wall ideas, like singing, prophesying fish, people eating giant butterflies, all of those people being action figures.  But in a story like this, one that is playing with the very concept of reality, it all works a lot better than in other settings.  I noticed a few other characters, like Lobo, Wonder Woman, He-Man, Catwoman, and more Star Trek people in the action figure person crowd.  Sean Murphy’s work is as good as it has been in every other chapter.  My only complaint was one little one, Zyxy’s face in the panel with the sword.  She looks a tad… odd.  A bit old.  But otherwise, he brings the same quality to this issue that he has with every other issue.  So this may not have been the most action-packed issue of the series, but it was a necessary one.  Really, this whole story is Morrison’s take on the traditional heroic quest, and again, this chapter was crucial.  But since it’s Morrison, this isn’t just some boring cliche.  It’s a superb comic book that’s going to be considered a modern classic once it’s done.

Plot: 8.8      Art: 9.0      Dialogue: 8.9      Overall: 8.9

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