In the late '80s, a comic book came out that helped reignite the struggling underground comic scene. The Crow, a gorgeously realized story of true love and revenge written by James O’Barr, not only served as notice that the independent scene was there, but it also helped bring more adult themes into comics.
The Crow was later adapted into three films and numerous comic spin offs. Now, in 2012, comes the latest addition to its legacy.
Later this month, IDW publishing will release The Crow #1. This is an entirely new story with new characters and a new setting. Instead of a fictional gothic city, this Crow takes place in Tokyo. The star of the show is a young American named Jamie Osterberg and his Japanese girlfriend Haruko Tatsumi. They are very much in love, even to the point that Haruko’s traditional father accepts their romance. Cue the big bad corporation, run by an aging old woman looking to escape death. Turns out her crack team of scientists have invented a way to put her consciousness or soul into another body. Through a string of circumstances, the evil old woman finds Haruko.
Meanwhile, Jamie is attending school where his best friend tells him that a classmate vanished from campus only to return acting completely different. The classmate refuses to acknowledge his mother and his friends. Haruko is kidnapped and given the old woman’s consciousness. When she sees her beloved Jamie, she insults and dismisses him. Crushed, Jamie heads home to drink. Thugs of the corporation bust into his home and shoot him several times, sending his body through a window. What looks like a Samurai with a crow reincarnates Jamie, who takes off his shirt and dons face paint.
I’m assuming in their rush to separate this story from the original Crow, IDW publishers, writer John Shirley and artist Kevin Colden, forgot what made the story so wonderful in the first place. Gone is the tragic romance, replaced by a quick and easy courtship that has no chemistry to it. Jamie and Haruko are madly in love because we are told they are, not because we feel it. The writing is a series of bad “in love” scenes and pat dialog. The meat of the story is also very eye-rolling. The big bad corporation? Really? Really? I understand that corporations are very real targets these days, but in a story like The Crow, it dehumanizes everything going on. Instead of a random act of cruelty that is to be punished, suddenly The Crow is taking on multi-national corporate bad guys. It kills the human connection to the story.
I can live with the bad “trading consciousness” motivation for the villains, but I draw the line at another hugely rich corporate asshole looking to thwart death. Everything happening plot wise is either clichéd – e.g. Japanese father unsure of American boy, corporate bad guys, mean old woman trying to cheat death – or it lacks a real human connection – e.g. the romance between Jamie and Haruko or the arrival of the Crow. Why not spend one issue setting up the characters and their relationships, allow us to grow into the new setting instead of rushing to make Jamie into The Crow? Speaking of Jamie, why is he American? Those in charge of this project were so compelled to set it in Japan and give it a Japanese feel; why not make the hero Japanese? IDW can’t still live under the idea that nobody will read a book without an American hero?
The art is abysmal. It looks like bad watercolors done by a first year art student. Another part of what made The Crow so good was the simple romantic beauty in the art. This Crow is trying so hard to be technological and futuristic that, again, the humanity is lost. All the characters tend to run the same facially and by the end of the story my head hurt with all the washed colors. The original Crow is a true artistic statement, one that has stood the test of time and will remain iconic even against garbage like this.
(2 Story, 2 Art)