Joe the Barbarian #5


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Joe the Barbarian #5


  • Words: Grant Morrison
  • Art: Sean Murphy
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Story Title: From Never to Always
  • Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: May 19, 2010

Grant Morrison is one of the few writers who demands more from his audience and as a result the comic medium is definitely the better for it. 

To appreciate fully this or any of his series, readers must reread previous issues and look beyond formula and expectations.  Only in his capable hands could a story about a diabetic child entering a science fiction world based on his own toy collection be this simultaneously captivating and frustrating as readers try to decipher the "reality" involved.

Of all the issues, this is perhaps the most succinct and solidly narrative of the lot as Joe and Jack survive the attack of the Manta Riders and discover the Iron Knight.  Here, readers see Joe really begin to question his environment as he recalls more and more from the "real world" mixing with the imaginary scenarios.  This issue also has more comparative sequences as Morrison jumps back and forth between Joe in his home and Joe fighting alongside Jack.  The superior artwork of Sean Murphy captures these transitions smoothly and reinforces the dangers facing the hero in both realms.  This is also the first issue to showcase the secondary characters Smoot and Zyxy, albeit shortly, and Morrison teases readers with their future prospects.  

Additionally, the dangers and threats beyond Joe's diabetes really come through in this issue.  Unlike the fantastical beings and monsters that have plagued Joe's quest, the hero now finds himself thrust into a much more proactive role as he faces a tangible danger beyond flooding bathtubs and raging storms outside his house.  The two-page splash as this new threat bears down on Jack is truly amazing, as are the following panels that vividly detail the battle. 

Unlike some other Morrison series, the artwork of Joe the Barbarian is the real power behind the sometimes ambiguous story itself.  The power of Murphy's images and Dave Stewart's colors depict a fantasy world of shadows and light in new and exciting ways.  From the aerial combat at the opening through the darkness of the Forest City of Yalway, Murphy and Stewart quicken the emotional pace of the story and allow readers to experience this new world as if they were truly there fighting alongside Joe.  This, however, does not detract from the quintessential Morrison moments that reveal his strengths and depth as a master storyteller.  The broken dialogue between Joe and his mother towards the end of this issue brings together the various emotions Morrison has been playing with since the first story.  This touching sequence serves as a nice segue into the next three issues and really provides closure to the first half of Morrison's new Vertigo mini-series.

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