On the sunshine-iness spectrum ranging from Morissey to Kimmy Schmidt, I place myself towards the left, somewhere around the Joseph Gordon-Levitt dot. I enjoy poetry and creativity and thinking Thoughts, and at the same time I also try to find joy in life. If you’d put yourself in a similar position, if you’ve had someone taken away from you, or if you are a fan of the comics genre, consider The Crow.
The graphic novel looks and feels familiar to anyone who has seen the movie adaptation starring the late Brandon Lee: After a gruesome and senseless act of violence (aren’t they all), a woman and a man are left dead. A year later, the man is resurrected in order to bring vengeance to the group of Detroit criminals that perpetrated the act.
Revenge stories aren’t a new thing, but writer and illustrator James O’Barr’s story is something special to a lot of people. I think the reason it resonates and feels different than so many contemporary stories is because the book came into existence as a way for O’Barr to deal with his rage and sadness of the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. His black and white art is mostly grotesque and drawn with very angry lines. The violence is disgusting. Unexpectedly, he gives his sinewy, undead protagonist a balletic grace in movement and speech. You can see him dance and tumble across pages, almost like Pris in Blade Runner. The protagonist also frequently quotes song and poetry, and seems sad not just for his loss but for the fates of everyone involved. Juxtaposed with the macabre illustrations are more photorealistic memories of the living couple, which makes everything sadder. Those memories seem to hurt the protagonist and reader more than any gunshots or knife wounds ever could.
Two notes – the violence in this book is pretty rough. I had to read this over a few sittings just to give myself some room. Additionally the book is nearly 40 years old, so I’m not sure that all aspects of the book hold up. Be aware of that going in. Second, there are at least three versions of The Crow. Two of them mostly have the same material – the original comics and the 1990s graphic novel collection contain the same pages in a slightly different order. I believe the edition linked here has a few more scenes that were original but not previously published.