Joe The Barbarian
Author: Grant Morrison Illustrator: Sean Murphy
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Release Date: November 8th 2011
Page Count: 224
One of my best friends is an avid comic book reader and when she told me that Joe The Barbarian was one of her favourite graphic novels of all time and asked if I wanted to borrow it, of course I jumped at the chance! I trust her opinion quite a lot and as I have been diving into the world of comics, we’ve been able to start recommending them to one another. So far, we’ve done an amazing job of choosing things geared toward one another’s interests.
Joe The Barbarian tells the story of Joe, a young eleven year old boy who has to deal with diabetes. On top of suffering from this illness, Joe’s father has recently died overseas in the Iraq war and Joe is also constantly being bullied at school. Joe comes home from school one day and as he is playing with his pet rat Jack, Joe starts to feel slightly strange. He soon realizes that his illness is causing him to slip into an insulin deprived delirium in which his pet rat Jack has grown larger than Joe himself and can speak! Joe and Jack go on a fantasy-like adventure that mirrors what his happening in reality as Joe is trying to get from his bedroom to the kitchen where he will most likely be able to find the glucose that he needs.
Even just trying to type up a way to describe this story was difficult. It’s so creatively genius. I absolutely loved the idea of Joe’s hallucinations mirroring what was actually happening to him in reality. Not only is this such a unique way of telling this particular story, but the fact that a graphic novel is even dealing with the topic of diabetes to begin with is amazingly unique. I, personally, don’t think I have ever seen or heard of a work of fiction that deals with the everyday common illness that is diabetes.
Although I loved this story for it’s creativity, I definitely did feel a little lost at times. The fantasy aspect of the story lost me a couple of times and I found it pretty hard to keep track of what was going on. I really do wish there was a little more jumping between reality and fantasy and I think that might have helped me with following the story line.
I don’t know if it was just me, but Joe felt like he was older than eleven years old. I don’t know if it was the art style or the way he and the characters surrounding him, (especially his classmates) acted, but they felt more mature to me personally. I didn’t even realize these kids weren’t in high school until after reading the synopsis on the back of the book after I had already finished reading the entire story.
That being said, other than the slightly older looking kids, the artwork was done really beautifully, especially those within the fantasy elements of the story.
Overall, this story was well done and really creative. I enjoyed it quite a bit regardless of the minor hiccups. I recommend reading it, if anything, just for the unique way of telling a story about a young boy suffering from type 1 diabetes.