Review: The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius


Judd Winick is now a fairly controversial creator in comics, joining Loeb, Liefeld, Land and a few others that have camps of admirers nearly as fervent as their camps of detractors.  But while Loeb, Liefeld and Land all enjoyed a great deal of mainstream popularity that built them up a lot of goodwill over the years, the two books that got Winick recognized were small indie comics written and drawn by him.  The first and most famous, Pedro & Me is a heartfelt look back on one of Winick’s dead friends, Pedro Zamora.  The other is far more of a cult success… and a far stronger book altogether.  That was his run on the four-volume The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, now collected by Oni Press into a single massive volume.

Barry Ween is a young genius in the vein of Dexter from Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Laboratory, except inched slightly closer to our world and rated a hard R.  The Adventures of Barry Ween followed the titular character, a pre-teen super-genius that could make Reed Richards look like an idiot and Dr. Doom seem downright benevolent at times, through a series of random, hilarious story arcs that flesh out Ween’s mad world.

Though the humor is indescribably juvenile, the emotion behind it is anything but.  As the series goes on, you begin to notice the little things about Barry – his loyalty to his friends, his conviction in ultimately doing what’s right, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way to help others, to name a few.  These small moments build up into a heart-breaking climax that raises the book above being a slight, fun book into a great comedy with surprising honesty.

Grade: A

– Cal Cleary


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