1.20.10 Reviews

Joe The Barbarian #1 (DC/Vertigo): Sean Murphy is a find; his art a total revelation. Murphy’s style is full of thin sketchy lines, with copious amounts of small detail. There’s a very minor manga influence with occasional speed lines and emotive expressions. Overall, it reminds me in spots of Tan Eng Huat, with perhaps a more inspired sense of kinetic movement. Some of his proportions are a bit off (look closely at the bus scene), but overall this is a fantastic new creator who’s (if you read the latest CBR article) been so close to breaking in and isn’t afraid to be opinionated. Murphy provides an Easter egg hunt of epic proportions, his scenes littered with Transformers, Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe, Batman, Robin, The Batmobile, The Batcave, Superman, Aquaman, Lobo, Santa Claus, The Millennium Falcon, The Rocketeer, The Iron Giant, Star Trek, Luke’s Landspeeder, Luke himself, Obi-Wan, the front end of a Speeder Bike, He-Man, and all of the ones I didn’t catch amid a sea of generic astronauts, army men, vehicles, and dinosaurs. Grant Morrison’s narrative is a bit restrained, but bears his typical dual (if not multiple) layers of meaning, sometimes self-evident and sometimes a bit murky. The things that are crystal clear include the fact that Joe lives in Portland, his mother is very stressed out, and both are afraid of losing their house after his military father is assumably KIA. On the flip side, there are some items that are deliberate and noticeable, but somewhat inconclusive for now. Joe’s mother’s speech pattern includes words like “macabre” and “satchel” that aren’t really found in typical American parlance. She says “I’m not driving, Joe” when she clearly is. She emphatically refers to “five rings” and I’m not sure why. There’s the overt inclusion of Native American dreamcatchers and I’m sure that isn’t without purpose, though the purpose has yet to reveal itself. Joe leaves the front door to his house open when he arrives home. While this makes for an impressive perspective shot down the hallway, I’m not sure it makes any storytelling sense. Mom explicitly tells him to eat his candy, “all of it,” on two separate occasions. This has got to be more than a throw away line, though it masquerades as such. The suspicious investigator in me would speculate that the doctor has Joe on some meds and they’re hidden in his lunch time treats. That one seems plausible. As for the other cryptic clues, I’m not sure if they’re really the types of clues that G’Mo would leave or just the result of lazy writing or penciling. It seems clear that Joe brings himself into a dream world or fantasy reality. The pet bird borders on being a fictitious imaginary friend. If you were to consult a child psychologist, I’m sure they’d spout something about fractured personality disorder brought on by the extreme stressor of losing his dad, and possibly his home. His entire world is being taken away, so the kid's subconscious mind creates a new one to inhabit. Considering the $1 price point, in the final analysis I’d call this an intriguing, if a bit chaotic, bargain. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #520 (Marvel): Greg Land’s art is not quite as offensive as it typically is. Though Psylocke is clearly an ape of Megan Fox in spots, there are surprisingly not a lot of opportunities for Land to show off his cheesecake ability. He actually attempts some background work in most of the panels, which seems to be a new phenomenon. There are a few attractive shots, like Wolverine atop a gothic outcropping in the same manner you’d expect to find Batman in a rainy Gotham City skyline. As a plot device, I don’t find the Predator X’s at all engaging, but some of the relationship dynamics do entertain. The banter between Namor and Magneto is good, leading to the “Senior Staff Meeting,” which is kind of funny considering the juxtaposition of Namor’s read on Scott. It’s also interesting who’s considered Senior Staff and that Madison Jeffries has apparently recently been promoted to rep the Science Team in the absence of Beast. The banter between Pete and Logan (along with the reference to “Betts”) doesn’t play as grating, but comes off as old friends reluctantly at it again. Wolverine’s questionable scent powers left me scratching my head. He smells “a hole” due to the absence of one scent amid stronger smells, and that’s uh, detectable… or something? Who the heck is Eva? Who the heck is the team assembled in NY? Who the heck is the kid with Fantomex? Why was that scene included? It all feels really untidy. This happens to me time and time again when reading this title. I feel like I missed an issue even though I haven’t. There’s a big cast, lots of skipping around to different sets and abruptly cutting to different plot threads, some of which are followed up on, some of which are left dangling arc to arc. Structurally, it takes four pages to get the team to NY and find Fantomex. That might be necessary, but when you have five other plotlines vying for resolution, it feels like wasted pages. To summarize, nothing really happens in this issue, and the perception of discontinuity with previous issues is perpetual. There are isolated moments which mildly entertain, such as Scott’s reaction to Erik’s offer of help. It seems inevitable that a couple of disparate tracks are going to intersect here. If I had to venture a guess, I’m feeling like Magneto has been planted here to bring back Kitty Pryde. I’m sure Matt Fraction can write his way out with The Master of Magnetism meditating on how to recapture an interstellar bullet as the “article of faith” he foreshadows to gain the trust of Scott and Charles, not to mention the good will it will engender from Wolverine, Pete, Emma, and anyone else with more than a passing relationship with Kitty. I’ll stick around for that, but as is there are more glitches than successes, so it feels like a Grade B-.


At 11:41 AM, Anonymous kilmoonie said...

Eva is Fantomex's ship/robot sidekick thing. And I think the scene in the shop with the kid,although silly, was just to show us that Fantomex's conscious is getting the better of him and he's about to show up (with Eva who wanted to help in the first place) to save the X-Men's ass when they are inevitably getting their ass kicked in the next issue.

And spot on with Magneto and your notes about Greg Land's art this issue.

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks for the 411 kilmoonie, pretty much everyting related to Eva/Fantomex is new to me.

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Justin,

The line about the candy bar is central to the issue, indeed: Notice that Joe is about to eat it when the bullies take it from him (and one of them walks away taking all that glucose from our hero's blood), and the pen thrown to the floor is an "Insu-Pen"... The issue is called 'hypo', and Joe wimself writes DANGER HYPO! in his block when the (Type 1 Diabetes) hypo...glucemia kicks in.

The interviews with Morrison -mostly, the CBR one- and the sharped-eyes Morreviewers do make a lot to flesh out the issue; as usual, I take them as the 3D glasses needed to highlight info that in the comic is thrown away in between thrown-away lines.

Which is not ideal, if you ask me, but has come to be the way to fully enjoy his comics, since, dunno, ever, in fact.

Anyway, he talks in same depth about the kid facing death if he doesn't reach in time the other end of his -surreally enriched, larger-than-life- house, so all those elements in the way to his room shall have a storytelling sense: the backpack, the chessboard... And yes, the open door, which Morrison also said is a sign of Joe zoning out as he arrives there.

There's speculation about it giving the bullies free access to him, but I think it would be far-fetched for them to get out of the schoolbus, walk uphill to Joe's house 15-20 mins later, and try to enther when they don't know if any of his parents are there. They are more the types to wait for you to walk out alone and then ambush you -"serial-killer style"-, than crash-in with torches into your home, but we'll see what will happen in 6-7 issues. Maybe they will be the unexpected saviors, and not his "animation or something" not-yey-girlfriend, and her ring of "yooou looook AWWWWSOME, JoooeManson" friendgirls around the graveyard tree.

I'm also intrigued by the "Five rings". Hmmm...

Congrats for the blog, by the way :)


At 10:29 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks, Abeto! And nice read on some of the Morrison clues. I caught the "Danger Hypo" scrawl, but didn't put it together with the insulin pen, pretty cool to have those dots connected.

From what I've read, the title seems to be taking some flak online. I'm not a Morrison die hard fan, but I'm enjoying the puzzle to this thing and really like Murphy's art a lot.

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glups! That had at least 4 too many typos, ay:
block/notebook, glucemia/glycemia, enther/enter, yey/yet
Not from there, sorry.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Justin said...

No hay problema. Gracias por la informacion. ;-)


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