Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

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Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby Red_Robin » Dec 7th, 2011, 3:26 pm

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The Crow by James O’Barr
by DarkFlux

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…


The Crow is a graphic novel that holds a special place on my bookshelf. It represents a defining experience for me as a reader of comic books.

When I first read it over 10 years ago, it introduced me to the idea that the world of comic book narrative and sequential art was not inhabited solely by muscle bound men in bright spandex, nefarious melodramatic super villains, sultry and seductive super-vixens and wise-cracking sidekicks.
Here was a book which was something altogether more dark. A book about a cruel world in which pain and suffering was rife. A world where innocents suffered and there was no Superman to swoop in and save the day. Sure it was by no means the first book to explore this area, not even close. But it was my personal introduction into this world. It was a book of torment, sorrow, revenge and retribution. And it is a tale born of a real life tragedy.

The Crow was originally written as a personal work for author James O’Barr. His intention was to use the writing of the book as a cathartic experience for dealing with the grief over the death of his girlfriend, who died at the hands of a drunk driver. O’Barr claims that further inspiration came from his reading of a newspaper article about a young couple from Detroit who were murdered by a mugger over a $20 engagement ring.
Unfortunately, O’Barr has said that his hope of writing the book to alleviate his grief went unfulfilled and that, if anything, he became more self-destructive over the process of creating it, with there being “pure anger” on each page.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The story of The Crow revolves around the newly engaged couple of Eric and Shelley.
After the couple’s car breaks down at the side of a road one day, they are set upon by a gang of thugs. Eric; shot in the head and paralysed, witnesses the beating, raping and murder of Shelley before he himself succumbs to his wounds.
One year later, Eric is resurrected by the titular Crow and sets about methodically killing those responsible for his and his fiancées deaths. In between killings he takes refuge in the couple’s old house where he is haunted by his memories of happier times with Shelley.

Book One: Pain

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The Crow opens with Eric approaching a fleeing burglar named Mr Jones. Ignoring Mr Jones threats, Eric demands the location of five men; Tin Tin, Top Dollar, Tom Tom, Fun Boy and T-Bird.

After experiencing Eric’s penchant for immortality first hand and after learning of the tortures inflicted upon another street thug, Mr Jones is quick to give up three of the gang.

A brief interlude shows Eric riding on a train. A horse begins to run alongside his window. Enjoying the view, Eric is horrified to see the horse become ensnarled in a barbed wire fence. The Crow, perched on his seat, tells Eric that he shouldn’t have looked. Eric is then approached by the train’s conductor, a skeletal figure, who asks for his ticket.

Later, in his old house, Eric reflects upon fractured memories of a terrible past tragedy.

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Eric next encounters Tin Tin, who is quickly intercepted. Eric recalls their past encounter, asking Tin Tin if he remembers him (“Don’t Look!” screeches the Crow). Tin Tin attempts to make a bargain for his life. Eric is quick to refute this.

Once more Eric broods in his old house, pouring over old photographs and lost in memory. We see Eric lying bleeding on the ground. Again; “Don’t Look!”

Next Eric crashes a gang meet lead by Top Dollar. After dispatching his cronies Eric questions Top on Shelley’s and his own murder. Top Dollar also attempts to strike a deal and once again, Eric shows no mercy.

Later that night an elderly tenant recalls these events to a police officer, describing loud noises and a seven foot vampire floating down the hall followed by all the buildings cats. She describes how he politely wished her a good evening.

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The book ends with Eric remembering the time he proposed to Shelley. He fantasises about them making love. The Crow tries to snap Eric out of these memories and mocks Eric. The Skeletal figure returns and shoots Shelley through the head.

Book Two: Fear

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Eric torments himself over past memories once more. He begins to exercise and dance to work off his frustration.

Tom Tom is next up and is easily cut down by a katana wielding Eric. In his last moments Tom Tom tells Eric of how it was all T-Birds fault and of how he pawned Shelley’s engagement ring at Gideon’s Pawn.

After violently crashing Gideon’s Pawn, Eric obtains Shelley’s ring, collects an arsenal of weaponry and burns the place to the ground. On the way out he encounters Officer Albrecht who attempts to arrest him. Proving himself not to be the arrestable-type, a spooked Albrecht lets Eric leave. Albrecht reports in to his superior, Captain Hook, who links the given description to Eric.

Back in his old house, Eric remembers the last Christmas he spent with Shelley.

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Eric later encounters a little girl named Sherri, a down and out kid who is waiting for her junkie of a mother who happens to be the girlfriend of Fun Boy. Eric decides to give her Shelley’s ring and goes to fetch Sherri’s mother. He finds her in bed with Fun Boy. After convincing her to return to her child her confronts the fourth gang member.

Fun Boy has heard of the “Ghost Man” stalking his fellow gang members and he tells Eric that he remembers him from a year ago. Taking some of Fun Boys morphine, Eric arranges a meet at the Gin Mill later that night, telling Fun Boy; “Don’t be happy…worry.”

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At his house once again, Eric again agonises over memories of Shelley. The Crow asks him why he does this to himself.

Book Three: Irony

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Preparing for battle inside a church, Eric takes some morphine and heads off to the Gin Mill. He manages to despatch all the gang members that Fun Boy has assembled in the ensuing fire fight.

Fun Boy expresses no remorse for his crimes but is surprising calm and humble, having accepted his fate. Eric tells him to find T-Bird and meet him later in a field by an old factory. Fun Boy asks if Eric will kill him there, to which Eric responds that Fun Boy was “dead the moment you touched that girl”. He promises Fun Boy he’ll make it quick and clean, but not for T-Bird.

Later, Eric takes to self harming, once more thinking of his loss. He remembers bathing with Shelley and asks God how he could have allowed something like this to happen.

Book Four: Despair

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One Year Ago. We are shown a younger Eric and Shelley on a day out. They are driving along fantasising about their wedding when their car breaks down. Eric works on the car as the sun goes down. They are soon approached by a gang of five who offer to give them a hand. After Eric politely refuses the gang turn aggressive and begin loitering around Shelley. When Eric reacts the gangs leader T-Bird draws a gun and shoots him in the head. Still alive, Eric slumps to his knees. He sees a vision of a crow which tells him it’s not his fault. T-Bird fires once more and Eric, hair ablaze falls to the ground paralysed. The gang then turn on Shelley, drag her from the car and proceed to BAM her. Eric helplessly witnesses this horrific event with The Crow screeching; “Don’t Look!” all the while.
Growing tired of Shelly’s screams, T-Bird eventually shoots and kills her.

Later, in the hospital, a comatose Eric is visited by a Captain Hook of the Police Force. He expresses his sympathies to Eric, saying that at least he didn’t have to see it. He wishes Eric a good life.
Eric suddenly snaps awake and calls out about seeing a Crow. He later dies in surgery.

Back in the present, Eric prepares himself for the final showdown with T-Bird. He loads up his weaponry, dances and again recalls his past life. He then sets fire to his house and heads off to meet the gang.

Book Five: Death

On his way to the meet, Eric again encounters Sherri. She expresses gratitude for Eric’s help earlier and the two share a tearful goodbye.

Fun Boy warns T-Bird of Eric’s approach; however T-Bird refuses to listen, shrugging off Fun Boys claims as the result of a bad trip. Fun Boy, unable to convince T-Bird, leaves to shoot up in the kitchen. Here he encounters Eric. Knowing that crying for help will do him no good, Fun Boy follows Eric’s instructions and takes an overdose of morphine. Telling him that he’ll give his regards to Lucifer, Fun Boys asks that when Eric gets to T-Bird, he “kill(s) that b###### slow.”

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When he finally encounters T-Bird and the rest of his gang, Eric invites them to shoot him, spreading his arms wide and declaring himself unarmed. After the resulting hail of bullets Eric remains unharmed and proceeds to savagely kill each gang member.

T-Bird attempts to flee in his car but crashes after the Crow blocks his sight. Lying injured on the side of the road, Eric beats T-Bird to death.

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Sometime later Eric sits by Shelley’s grave stone in a cemetery. One last time he recalls his past life with Shelley as the Crow flies overhead. Finally at peace, Eric disappears.

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In all honesty, The Crow is no masterpiece. It’s not something that would rank among such legendary works as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Maus or V for Vendetta.
The art, whilst moody and expressive, is not the most technical or overly impressive work out there. Dialogue can occasionally fall flat or come across as cliché.
Where the Crow shines though, is simply as a dark insight into the grief stricken mind of its author. It remains a deeply personal work infused with anger and sorrow. Various works of poetry and prose are used throughout the book which adds to the overall sombre feel and O’Barr has created a genuinely tragic and compelling character in Eric.
So, if you ever fancy a comic that’s a bit more low key, that was never intended to raise eyebrows or redefine the medium but is a dark, gothic expression of one man’s woes put to paper, a simple revenge driven love story, then you could do a lot worse than The Crow.
And with a new edition recently published, there’s no better time to check it out!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby deadjunk » Jan 2nd, 2012, 5:07 pm

After reading this I have become more interested in it. Very nice DarkFlux
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby BobGun » Jan 2nd, 2012, 9:24 pm

Excellent stuff, DarkFlux, one of the best TCCs so far!

It's compelling to be allowed into the mind of someone who expresses their situation in life through their work. I read this a long time ago, and probably never fully appreciated it then, but with the new release, I'm definitely gonna pick this up.

Did you like the movie, DarkFlux?
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby DarkFlux » Jan 2nd, 2012, 10:13 pm

The first one yeah, arguably better than the GN :)

The others...not so much.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby TheJester » Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:34 am

Great read Fluxy!

I'll definetly check this out. Sounds like the author had some demons huh?
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby TFDutchman » Jan 3rd, 2012, 2:28 am

Great wrok Flux. I will admit I haven't read the GN or watched the movie, but I'm actually rather interested in it now. I might have to look around and see if I can get a copy to read and see if I like it.

Nice work!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby DarkFlux » Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:33 pm

Thanks guys :)

I just noticed that the site censors the "r-word" and replaces it with "BAM"...
Thats just makes it worse :S
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby Scarecrow112 » Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:36 pm

Very interesting novel I remember watching some of the movie version
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby TheHauntedKnight » Jan 3rd, 2012, 11:02 pm

I saw the first movie and like it. But this makes me interested to read it. Thanks awesome review
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby CROD » Jan 4th, 2012, 2:39 am

Awesome read DarkFlux! Id love to check this out someday.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby Firefly1020 » Jan 4th, 2012, 6:56 pm

DarkFlux wrote:Thanks guys :)

I just noticed that the site censors the "r-word" and replaces it with "BAM"...
Thats just makes it worse :S

Thats exactly what i was thinking. For some reason i find this hilarious :oldyella: sorry, cant help my twelve year old mind :oldyella:
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby cutchin43 » Jan 10th, 2012, 4:12 am

Might be a little too dark for my taste. Then again, maybe not. I may have to check it out sometime. Good read!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby TheJester » Jan 30th, 2012, 11:50 pm

Doesn't really class as reading it, but I did check out the film for this, and it was awesome! Kinda sad the actor died before it got released though.

Definetly need to actually read the series though :lol:
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby deadjunk » Jan 31st, 2012, 8:32 pm

TheJester wrote:Doesn't really class as reading it, but I did check out the film for this, and it was awesome! Kinda sad the actor died before it got released though.

Definetly need to actually read the series though :lol:

You know he was Bruce Lee's son
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #6: The Crow

Postby whoisthisfatty » Feb 14th, 2012, 10:43 am

The crow really is fantastic. I think Brandon lee's crow is what inspired Ledgers madcapped joker.
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