The Crow Graphic Novel Revisited

Originally released in 1993, this classic urban gothic tale of tragedy and revenge came from a personal loss of artist/writer/creator James O’Barr. The Crow graphic novel is an intense arrangement of art, lyrical verse, anger, sadness and a story that is not meant to be entertaining, yet is satisfying to read.

Eric and his fiance Shelly are celebrating their engagement when they are viciously murdered by a street gang. A year passes and Eric is resurrected by a crow, a spiritual guide who helps him to understand his new power, as well as his purpose:  to avenge he and his fiance’s untimely murder. One by one Eric seeks out the members of the gang, and executes them along with anyone who stands in his way.

What I’m leaving out of that summary is all of the in-betweens that make this graphic novel an absolute treasure. It’s not a typical hack and slash revenge story. James O’Barr pours his heart into every page, and with every page turn, he’s going further off the deep end, and taking you with him. There are periods of sadness and loneliness expressed through music lyrics, short poems and flashbacks that are calming and almost dream-like…just to be ripped back into the reality of O’Barr’s pain.

O’Barr’s sequential art flows with ease, given the unconventional make-up of the graphic novel. The book as a whole is pieced together from the mini-series and from short pieces in other publications, and O’Barr uses this to his advantage. He’s definitely done his homework, and you can see the Will Eisner influence panel to panel. O’Barr also shows his artistic range as he uses harsh, scratchy lines for the main story. For flashbacks and other ethereal scenes, his art takes on a softer, lighter quality.

The comic was started by O’Barr as a way to cope with a personal tragedy early in his adulthood. He worked on The Crow in the early 80s, and it was published in 1989 as a mini-series by Caliber Comics. Over the past twenty years it has been collected as a graphic novel several times and released by numerous publishers. A long-awaited special edition graphic novel is scheduled for a July 2011 release. This version contains a lot of new material edited from the original publication, restored artwork and a new introduction by the author.

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