Thoughts On “The Crow”

When I got home all jazzed about the Pittsburg trip I went to check out the guest list for our next confirmed journey – Heroes Con in Charlotte. One of the names that jumped out at me was J. O’Barr. The Crow was a big impact book for me.

Something compels me to want to write about this book before I meet him. I’m pretty sure it probably won’t have any bearing on the way I feel about the book, but I can’t be positive.

Only a foolish person is unaware that the experiences we have color & shape us. Only by recognizing & admitting that experience affects us can we hope to begin to exert any control over that influence.

So just to be PERFECTLY safe – let’s talk about The Crow now before anything else comes to bear on my opinion.

Pausing for a disclaimer before we continue – these reviews are as much about me as they are about the books. *smile* So if you want something more straight up & less fluffy go online & read the Comicqueen or SimplyJD. But if you want the skinny with a little more flavor – press on.

I’ve read this book at LEAST four times that I can recall. I read it once after my divorce, once again after the “Big Love” walked out and once in between those two times. Then for good measure I read it right before I wrote this just to refresh on the details.

And what has that got to do with anything? Well, everything…

It’s happened to everyone – a song comes on the radio & just strikes you a certain way. Every word applies to what’s going on in your life
that day; that week, that YEAR. Every chord washes over you with meaning – it tears you up.

Then time goes by – you hear the song again. You remember that song & how much it meant to you. You may even still get that nostalgic rush.
But if sufficient time has passed you might not have such ready access to the exact feelings that imbued it with meaning the first time.

Or, if you’re screwed – you might be having the kind of day where this song puts you EXACTLY back in the place where you were when you first heard it.

That’s what The Crow was like for me. Even on a good day it’s an emotionally gut-wrenching tale. Heck, I’m feeling GREAT right now, but last night when I read it – I still had to set it down at least once & take a minute to regain my composure.

So I’ve read it twice at a time of stability in my life (that would include, ahem – NOW) & twice at a time of upheaval. When things are straight up normal it’s a GREAT book. But, when coping with grief, loss or a sense of abandonment, this is a freaking masterpiece. So that’s where I’m coming from when I’m writing about it.

We’ve wallowed in personal subjectivity long enough – let’s talk about the book. (Or Jeff is NEVER going to let me write for his blog again! *laughing*)

Maybe I went off on that long tangent because I’m a little daunted by writing about the “plot”. How do you describe the plot of a symphony? Where to you start untangling this beautiful fusion of art & prose & poetry.

The opening mantra may be a good place as any start:

“A year ago…a cold October night…

A broken down car on a dirt road…

A man…a girl…madness…pain…and the shadows…

My God, the shadows…”

A year prior to the beginning of the story our main character, Eric, was murdered. Before he died, he witnessed the brutal rape & murder of his fiancĂ©, Shelly. FiancĂ© is an understatement though. This was his soul-mate – the love of a lifetime.

There is dead and not quite so dead. The loss, the grief – the need to answer to the unanswerable question “Why?” was not extinguished with the death of his body. The compulsion – the obligation – to bring whatever justice he can binds Eric to the mortal world.

Half shade – half man, he hunts down the crime’s perpetrators one by one. I’ve been using a lot of flowery girlie-words to describe this book, but make no mistake – this is a violent book. There are grisly demises aplenty.

Though Eric spends a good deal of time killing, he also is capable of great compassion. He shows kindness to a sad & terribly neglected little girl. He even cares for a stray cat during his stay in the world. And, remarkably, he takes time to make sure each will be provided for after he is gone.

The titular Crow accompanies Eric on his quest. He serves many purposes – observer, counselor, narrator, guide and many other things that I’m sure I’m not smart enough to think of. The Crow is witness to Eric’s suffering – there to talk him through painful reminiscences of his lost love.

That is one of the greatest things about the artwork in this book. The stylistic changes in the art help convey the feeling of different episodes. There is such a sharp contrast to the soft, clean images of the time when Eric and Shelly were in love and the dark, gritty scenes of vengeance.

And, yet, I hate to use a word like vengeance. That’s not really what I get from this story. It’s not so much about revenge & murder – it’s a howl of pain. I’m not denying that there is rage & anger but it is fueled by the anguish & the blackness of loss. I never felt like Eric was “avenging” Shelly as much as he was honoring, with absolute devotion, her & the memory of the time they had.

I know, I know – could I BE more melodramatic?

This is also one of the few books where I esteem the art & the words equally – which is RARE for me. For example, when I first read “Shiver in the Dark” – I kept forgetting there were words to the story because I was so captivated with the artwork. But when I was reading “Superman: Red Son” – well, I think that book had pictures, but I don’t really distinctly remember.

In The Crow there was no such separation for me. Words & art seamlessly tell the story. On one page it might be a snippet of poetry that cuts to the heart. On another page it might be a breathtaking picture. Or, more frequently, the combination creates the perfect tone & mood – one would not be the same without the other.

Now I’ve know some people who’ve had a “Meh” kind of reaction to the story. I’m not saying you’ve had to experience some tragedy in life to totally get this tale, but it speaks with honesty to those who’ve seen dark places in their lives.

And, heck, in this shallow, “hook-up” culture to which we seem to be inexorably gravitating this story shines like a diamond. It seems everywhere you look there is an absence of conviction – nobody knows what they believe in anymore. So presented with a story of passion, devotion & eternal loyalty – well, for a girlie-girl like me, it hardly gets any better than that.

I don’t know what just happened there but we suddenly moved from review to lament. *smile* I think that’s my cue to exit.

Can you tell how much I like this book? I’ve probably way over-praised here, but if you’re going to call yourself a fan of the graphic novel, you should read this. I think it’s a classic of the form.

I’d lend you my copy but somebody’s already snatched it off my desk. That makes me happy though. We can always use a few more converts now can’t we?

Thanks for listening.


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