I remember back in my high school days, around the time The Crow: City of Angels came out, reading an interview with The Crow creator James O’Barr where he spoke about how the franchise wasn’t Star Trek and how he felt it couldn’t continue on forever. Flash forward almost 20 years and O’Barr returns to pen this quickie cash grab that is unsuitable in every way for The Crow name.
In the forward for this graphic novel, O’Barr freely admits that this was meant to be a separate story he wrote years before and that it’s pure b-movie pulp. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself but it doesn’t fit with the mold of the other Crow comic books, especially one written by the man who gave us the juggernaut that was the original story.
So basically this story is about an unnamed Nazi camp victim simply referred to as The Man who comes back in order to wreck a terrible vengeance against his former captors. It’s a garish and ultra violent ride that is entertaining and horror/action fans will find a lot to entertain them for the 25 minutes or so they spend with it, but after they put it down there is nothing left to remember. They try to give the comic a sense of artistic grandeur by making Wagners The Ring opera part of the storyline by having the Nazi commandant listen to it. Perhaps in a film this would work as we could hear what he is listening to, but as a narrative form in a piece of literature it serves no real purpose.
To make matters worse, that plot point ties into part of The Man’s back story and reason for vengeance. But given that his reasons for returning from the dead to unleash retribution are so quickly skimmed over and tied to music the reader can’t hear, there is no emotional connection from reader to character to justify them being involved with the story. It’s just fun to watch him kill a bunch of people.
And that is the fundamental difference between The Crow and other lesser revenge stories. The contemplative nature of loss and what it does to us has always been a focal point of the stories and that is missing from this story. It’s not the revenge that’s the focal point; it’s the pain the character is going through and how it drives them. Now, granted I understand times change and to have a character running around quoting Joy Division would be a bit much these days, but no effort is even put in to helping us identify with the character at all.
The artwork is really cool and reminded me more than a bit of Bernie Wrightson. Jim Terry does a great job with it and is one of the saving graces of this series. With that said, I feel something is lost in transitioning the series from black and white to color. It still has a black and white feel to it, but as with the story, the artwork is suitable for another story. The whole thing is out of place in The Crow.
I feel I should admit that I’m new to the IDW Comics incarnation of the series and after having grown up with the Kitchen Sink Press stories, it was a bit much to take in. However, I don’t feel like I’m being a cynic in saying this story line is not up to par. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read but I can’t help but feel a great deal of disappointment with the story, and it’s creator, especially after everything that has come before it in the comic book iteration. Yes, I know the films have been on a downward spiral (haha goth joke) for 20 years, but the comics haven’t been that bad.
But in these economic times, we each do what we must, and I can’t blame O’Barr for wanting to continue to eat with the lights on.