The Crow

I’ve revisited some items from my past recently, and one such thing was J.O. Barr’s The Crow. Mostly known to normal people as the movie in which Brandon Lee was killed in a freak accident, it was originally a comic book. It’s been seen as a goth classic, according to Wikipedia. (Citation needed, eh?)

The movie is a stylish exercise in violent revenge and nihilism, and while I admire its craft, I have never quite decided how I feel about it. Still, at its black heart lies a love story, unlike, say, Sin City, in which nothing much of interest (beyond Final Cut filters) is found, so I give it a pass. Also, David Patrick Kelly does his demented schtick and ultimately blows up real good, so there’s that.

The sequels have without fail been atrocious, or so I’m told. I did rent the first sequel, but it so effectively plumbed hitherto unknown depths of shittiness that I wisely decided to stick with the first. Much lies at the capable hands of Alex Proyas. The man knows his way around a stylish set and despite a few ropey bluescreens (which aren’t that ropey unless you’re looking for it, as I tend to do), it looks amazing. I love the fact that he went on to make Dark City after that, a movie he wanted to make, rather than go straight to iRobot (which pisses on Asimov’s work, but was OK in a retarded way, and of course looked awesome). Even more than that, I love how he went home to Australia to make Garage Days, a movie about a rock band trying to get signed. It’s a low-budget affair, certainly no classic, but it coasts by on its considerable charms and is well worth a look.

Anyway, my complaint lies not with the movie versions of The Crow, but that comic. The concept is cool: avenger from beyond the grave and so on. Nothing new, but you can work with it. So I found The Crow: Dead Time in my comic collection and decided to re-read it. Boy, was that a mistake. The story idea was by Barr himself, but it was scripted by John Wagner (Batman, Judge Dredd). It also features art by Alexander Maleev, who seems to be of the Sam Kieth school, which is to say a few good splash pages and otherwise shitty. I dunno. Wikipedia says he’s supposed to be good. Citation needed, I guess.

Dead Time could have been a great sequel. The idea is sound: our man is brought back from the dead to avenge his wife and child, who were killed by outlaw soldier in the Civil War. They have been reincarnated in order to make amends, but have of course turned bad, and are in fact carousing with one another. I assume the crow works like The Matrix, as our man steals cars without much trouble. Prompting the single worst line I’ve read in a long time “Speed, bird, speed the wheels of justice!”

I am surprised that Wagner, who’s work tends to be nothing if not solid, scripted this. It’s shoddy and incoherent and is a classic example of a good idea executed terribly. I’ve never read the original Crow story; I tried a few pages then gave up. I have a feeling Barr got Wagner’s name on it to sell some extra copies. Anyway, I just wanted to share my disappointment.