Published Nov. 8 by Vertigo, “Joe the Barbarian” weaves an intriguing fantasy-based story with beautiful art into an excellent graphic novel.
Our main character, Joe Manson, suffers from Type 1 Diabetes and even one missed meal sends him into a state of hypoglycemia. After coming home from school, Joe accidentally breaks his insulin shot while in his room. Entering hypoglycemia, Joe starts hallucinating and his journey to the kitchen for soda becomes a unique fantasy adventure.
The world Joe imagines shares numerous structural qualities with his home and his journey through this new world. It mirrors his search for soda to ease his hypoglycemia. Not long into the adventure, Joe learns he’s the lost savior of the land named ‘The Dying Boy.’ Guarded by anthropomorphized version of his pet rat, Jack, Joe must return light to this land, which darkness has swallowed.
Writer Grant Morrison tells a truly heart-felt, lovingly crafted tale in this book. The story, framed by Joe’s real life struggles, comes alive with original characters that embody a sense of familiarity, easily making them likeable by the reader. Morrison offers just enough details throughout the book, allowing the story to remain concise, yet vibrant.
Speaking of vibrancy, the illustrations of Sean Murphy contain the same amount of attention to detail as the story. Studying the artwork, a sense of tension emerges as the pages can barely contain the artistic beauty. At every turn of the page, Murphy captures the mood of the book and pairs the mood with color shades that exemplify the tone.
“Joe the Barbarian” is one of the few graphic novels that captures the spirit, while utilizing all the tools of the graphic novel genre. Combining Morrison’s unique story structure and Murphy’s illustrations, “Joe the Barbarian” offers a refreshing look at fantasy stories. It’s hard not to fall in love with this creative novel.
This collected version houses all eight issues of the series, which first appeared on shelves in March 2010. The list price of the book is $29.99, which is the one problem I have with the collection; the price is a tad steep for a 224-page story. However, if you can find the book at lower price, do not hesitate to buy and read it.