Since the Crow’s re-launch at IDW, I’ve been keeping up with every series. Regardless of what I thought of either of the first two Crow series, I confirmed the basic formula of the world which was previously only known to me via the movies. That is to say that someone wrongly killed comes back with powers to right their death and usually the death of their loved ones. This series on the other hand… is completely different. Its presentation, its maturity and its narrative are so drastically different from everything else I've experienced with The Crow that it honestly surprised me. We meet Joseph an overweight balding man as he sleeps in his under shirt and boxers on the couch. Around him are all the signs of his life; bottles of empty booze, an ashtray full of cigarettes and left over pizza on the floor. His cat wakes him up and as he walks to the kitchen we discover that the mess only spreads throughout the house. As Joseph talks to his cat we continue the tour around the house and see the left overs of his life: a wife and two kids that are gone and a retirement certificate from the police department. As Joseph walks back to his bed/couch he finds a dead little girl standing in his living room. She tells him, “Don’t forget about me.”
The story flashes back to October, 1973 and we find a slightly younger Joseph arriving in the middle of the night at a crime scene. As you can probably guess, it’s the crime scene for the dead girl we just met. He yells at the boys in blue that have dredged around the crime scene contaminating the evidence. He looks around and begins taking notes of everything. It’s clear from some of the evidence that little girl was sexually assaulted and Joseph does his best to give the dead some dignity. One of the rookies tells him that he shouldn’t touch anything because she hasn't been photographed and Joseph lays into him. From there it’s to the medical examiners, where things only get worse for this case.
The thing that makes this series so different is that we’re not following the Crow, not yet at least. It’s not uncommon for a Detective to be involved in the story, but Joseph is at the forefront. The narration and dialogue is what really shines here. The narration is a look inside Joseph’s mind and even though he’s not a bad man, he is severely damaged. He’s one of those cops that care more at work than life at home due to the jacked up amount of things he’s witnessed firsthand. His dialog is genuine and realistic; he sounds like a Detective that is both good at his job, but has also been doing it for far too long. I think this story would have been amazing even if there was no art, or just splash pages throughout, the writing was that strong.
Thankfully though, the art is just as strong and passionate as the writing. You can see the weight of life and the job on Joseph’s face. Before he even approaches the crime scene he has a look of being destroyed by the situation. The art has a Ben Templesmith quality to it, which mainly comes out in the coloring and the squiggly yet controlled line work.
This is a very mature story and frankly I’m kind of surprised to see it come from IDW. In their early days I would never have second guessed it, but their brand and titles have swung in a different direction in recent years. This is definitely the best thing they’ve published all year. O’Barr’s story is handled with maturity and a master understanding of the world he’s created. It’s fantastic and it’s also set the bar very high for future issues of The Crow.
Writer: James O’Barr Artist: Antoine Dode Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/12/13