If Joe the Barbarian‘s first issue started a bit slow, its second makes up for it and then some. As Joe ventures even deeper into the bizarre fantasy-land in his head, he teams up with Jack, his pet rat/master swordsman to defy an evil empire hellbent on destruction. The issue has a couple killer action segments, gorgeous scenery and bizarre, epic world-building like only Grant Morrison can do. There is an undeniably tragic undercurrent, though – after all, the book appears to be about a young man mythologizing his own rapid, needless death. I do not know whether Joe will survive or not, but panels like the one where he falls from the attic are almost viscerally painful, and it’s these brief, infrequent reminders from Morrison that give the book it’s quickly-breaking heart.
Murphy continues to turn in extraordinarily impressive work, as does colorist Dave Stewart – an under-appreciated talent, especially notable in gorgeous panels like the first firing of the ray gun – and the pair together make the issue extremely memorable. The two of them have crafted an extraordinarily lived-in fantasy world. With Morrison’s script and Murphy and Stewart on art, Joe the Barbarian has already grown into a first-rate adventure, one that perfectly captures the bizarre melancholy and boundless creativity of childhood.
– Cal Cleary