>The Crow: Hatred Sprinkled With Kindness

Posted: 12/02/2010 in book review, comics

>I have recovered a bit of teenage goth past; I purchased a copy of The Crow by J. O’barr. I only recently read through this graphic novel, but have enjoyed the movie since I was about fifteen. Originally, I intended to write a one blog review of this book, but I realize now that I might as well do two. For those of you who don’t know, The Crow is about an anti-hero who comes back from the dead to kill all the people who killed him and his fiancée. It has many of the qualities of film noir and reminds me a bit of Frank Miller.

What made me really want to read though this was the trauma that inspired the book. J. O’barr grew up in the shit-hole ghetto of Chicago as an orphan. When he was barely out of high school, his fiancée was killed by a drunk driver. He joined the marines to deal attempt to cope. The Crow was a further attempt at a catharsis to deal with the tragedy.

Knowing this made me read the novel differently. It certainly has a very angry and raw feel to it. One does not get the impression that this comic was drawn with a clear, beautifully planned, story arc in mind. Neither do you get deeply insightful characters. You do not even get deep into the protagonist’s past and history. The comic is simply pages of anger and pain drawn in the form of an ugly hero in an ugly world doing ugly things to ugly people.

Yet all this is what makes the character, the Crow, so interesting. On one hand, he is abjectly and unashamedly hateful. This first comes out vividly when he kills his first mark, Tin-tin. The Crow gives him a few aphorisms on the rottenness of his soul (and it surely is) and then stands over the body and says, “may God grant you the mercy that I cannot.” His second kill is a fellow by the name of Top Dollar. Top Dollar is in a meeting with other unsavory cronies. The Crow mocks them by coming in the window and declaring himself Santa Claus and they’ve all been very bad. The killing of the entire group of criminals could only be described as a bloody wrathful mess. Top Dollar attempts to barter for his life, but the Crow ignores him. He shoots top through the eye first and finishes him with another shot.

This is not the killing-style of a shrewd, professional, assassin. It is plain vigilante rage that is almost animal. It is human only that it is fueled by emotions that only humans have.

On the other side, the Crow shows politeness and even compassion. Right after killing Top Dollar, the Crow walks casually down a hall, turns back and winks and an old lady and politely says “Good evening ma’am.” The compassion comes out even stronger when he meets the victimized little girl named Sherri. Sherri’s mother is busy having sex for drugs. Sherri, who looks about twelve, is neglected and without a childhood. The Crow takes compassion on her and gives her a necklace that belonged to his dead fiancée and it is the first gift this little girl has ever received.

His compassion for Sherri is exemplified when he meets her mother, who is bed with the morphine addict Fun Boy. Sherri’s mother is panicked and scared, but the Crow touches her gently on the head and says, “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of every child. Your daughter is waiting for you on the streets.” When the Crow kills Tin-tin, Top Dollar, and Tom-tom, he is unconcerned about collateral damage, but for Sherri’s account he slows down just little bit and waits for the mother to leave.

Right before the Crow goes to kill his final mark, and prepares himself for his own funeral, he visits Sherri one last time. Without spoiling the moment for those who have not read the book, I can only say that the Crow shows gentleness one last time and eliminates one other “problem” in her life. He even finds a way to ensure that someone else will look out for her in the dark, shit-hole, of a world that the comic takes place in.

That is the first part of my thoughts on The Crow. In my next blog, I will talk about its overall questions: “are there crimes that can never be forgiven?” and “Is there such a thing as happy vengeance?”

Thanks for reading.



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