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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 302: The Crow #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from The Crow #2, which was published by Caliber Press and is cover dated March 1989. Enjoy!

He brings flowers, wine, and ... DEATH!

James O’Barr’s emo masterpiece has a lot of violent stuff going on in it, and while this first page stretches the definition of “scary,” I think it does a good job creating a mood, and with the Crow, that mood is absolute terror that he’s going to fuck your shit up pretty hard. O’Barr sets the scene well, as we know we’re in Detroit and we see that the Crow is walking down a somewhat bleak street. The “dead end” and “one way” signs are a bit on the nose, but O’Barr’s not the most subtle writer, and at least they would conceivably be on a city street. The Crow dominates the page, naturally, and O’Barr does a nice job making him extremely menacing. The cat is a good touch (cats like Eric, for some reason), because O’Barr draws both the cat’s face and the Crow’s face almost the same way, so there’s a sense of the predatory nature of our avenging dead guy. Eric’s ridiculous hair (a product of his time, unfortunately) isn’t as obvious as it often is, so while we can see that it’s shaggy and black, it doesn’t elicit chuckles as it does in some drawings. O’Barr makes Eric’s eyes thin and eerie, while the makeup he wears turns his thin-lipped mouth into a sinister sneering grin. The romantic gesture of the Champagne and the flowers is mitigated by his evil expression and the trench coat, which puts us in mind of someone doing something quite wrong. Plus, he’s wearing gloves, which just looks creepy. Taken in isolation, wearing gloves and a long coat like that while heading to a romantic rendezvous isn’t in itself disturbing, but added to the Crow’s expression and the cat in his shoulder, it becomes something much more unsettling.

O’Barr’s prose is a bit tortured, but he has some nice turns of phrases. The drug metaphors show up throughout the comic because a lot of people in this comic use drugs. O’Barr adds some creepiness by referring to Eric as “an earthbound ghost” who speaks to his “dead lover,” and what he says is pretentious, sure, but also terrifying, making the city something absolutely evil that sucks people down and strangles them. The Crow is spiraling down “through a collapsed dream” and the only sound he makes is “like a concave scream.” The use of “concave” is interesting – it suggests something hollowed out, sucked in, and the image I get (because of the other metaphors in the book) is of a drug addict with a concave chest, unable to breathe properly. O’Barr might pummel you over the head with images, but his bludgeoning paints a picture full of despair. Which is the point, after all.

The Crow is a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nevertheless (as I argue here), and this page gives us a good idea of the horrors contained within without being too explicit. It’s pretty darned cool that way, if you ask me.

Next: An early work by a writer who’s risen in the DC ranks and an artist who has decided to spend his time working for Zenescope. What comic could it be? You won’t find any clues in the archives!

9 Comments

Man, I haven’t read the Crow in ages, but damn, it hit me at the right time. I hang my head in shame now at the notion that it is an “emo masterpiece”. Totally correct, but totally depressing me. I’m not an emo kid! I laugh at them and their phony despair!!!

You actually have the original issues? Damn! I just have the Kitchen Sink trade from about ’95, and it doesn’t really indicate well where each issue had ended/the next began.

O’Barr just recently released a new version of the book, with extra pages and stuff. I flipped through it at the bookstore, it looked neat.

The current Crow comic from IDW is pretty good stuff, too, with art by Kevin “Fishtown” Colden, who is a cool guy his own self.

Travis: It’s still a very good comic, despite it’s more gloomy tendencies. Embrace the emo!

I own the first three original issues, but I know the first one isn’t a first printing and I’m not sure about this one and the third one (and I’m not going back to check!). I also own the nicer, combined volumes that came out to finish the story (the fifth issue was never printed), AND the trade! I’m still mulling over the newest trade, but then I’d have FOUR versions of some of the book!

I’m wary of Crow sequels, just because the first one is so self-contained and the first sequel, by John Wagner and Alex Maleev, was so terrible. But I might get this one in trade, and I’m still trying to decide about the new O’Barr one that’s coming out soon. So much to ponder!

@greg burgas: As you are probably aware the new John Shirley penned 5 parter was saddled with the worst art work I have ever seen.What IDW was even thinking releasing it like this, I have no idea. Avoid the floppies and the trade.The new O’Barr 3 parter has a different artist,but I haven’t seen enough of a preview to see whether the art work is ok.Probably the only other recent comic that is as bad artwise is Hermes press Sparrow and Crowe. That,s too bad as well because the storyline is pretty good.

Orphan: Thanks for the warning! I assume you mean the series drawn by Kevin Colden, whose art I actually like, but which I haven’t seen in this series. if my retailer has a copy I’ll have to check it out and see where I stand on it!

WTF, Burgas? I tell you the new Crow mini, with Colden art, is pretty good, and then someone else tells you different and you believe them? Why you gotta play me like that, dawg?

hee hee

Granted, the Wagner/Maleev mini WAS terrible. The Prosser/Adlard one isn’t quite as bad.

But yeah, I do love the original. It’s just the notion that liking it makes me emo is…offputting.

As to the new Crow mini, let me just say that the Crow’s name is Jamie Osterberg. From Detroit. And if you’re a music geek, you know who that’s a reference to.

Travis: All I said was I’d have to take a look at it! If Orphan is talking about the Kevin Colden one (and I assume he is), I’ll probably like the art, because I like Colden. But I appreciate different opinions about it!

I’m not a music geek, so I don’t know the reference. Sorry!

It means Travis is going to search and destroy you like it was 1969!

Ah, someone knows the reference! My lust for life is renewed!

@Travis:actually I was behind on The Crow and then managed to read #1-#3 together. Prior to this I read a thread on CBR that said the same thing about bad art,but I had commited to the full arc and finally got to read #1-#3 and had to agree with the person who was complaining. I find the chicken scratching that tries to be edgy and what I feel is extremely inept action sequence pacing almost impossible to follow.The fault with fight scene choreography may be the script itself,who knows? I’m currently reading both Age of Apocalypse and Winter Soldier both of which have launched with decidedly edgier art than is typical of Marvel ,but I like both of those. I also am following Oemings Visionaries and mention 3’s Monocyte,but this Colden stuff isn’t cutting it for me.If I were Ryall’s boss I’d finish the floppy arc ,but pull the project as a complete redue before releasing it for trade.I put the Colden art on Crow in the same drawer as Sparrow and Crowe especially S&C’s issue #1 cover. To each his own I guess.

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