James O’Barr should write The Crow.
He should probably draw it too.
I say this because James O’Barr’s original Crow series (the books that sparked the feature film starring the late great Brandon Lee) is the only time I’ve ever enjoyed a story involving The Crow. Every little miniseries or bad film that has come since O’Barr’s original work on the iconic character has always paled in comparison. It’s funny, because you would think that a character that has as much flexibility as the entity of death and redemption
that is The Crow would elicit some better ideas for stories from all of the writers other than O’Barr who have tried to tackle the character but, alas, no one seems to nail the character as well and as heartfelt as his creator. It could be because the character stemmed from a rough period in James O’Barr’s life, and that emotion comes through in the original series. But every iteration of The Crow other than O’Barr’s treatment lacks heart, emotion, and an overall level of interest.
And, after two issues into IDW’s new Crow series, Death and Rebirth, I can honestly tell you that the trend continues.
In all honesty The Crow: Death and Rebirth really does make an attempt to infuse heart into its pages as well as create emotional connections between the characters and the reader. Issue #1, which is the beginning of a new life for the property that will herald in James O’Barr returning to the character he created sometime next year, kind of makes you feel for this new Crow, a young man named Jamie Osterburg, and his new path of vengeance as The Crow in a modern Tokyo setting. But Issue #2 erases all of that and pretty much makes you dislike The Crow.
Series writer John Shirley, who co-wrote the original Crow film, is trying hard to make The Crow fit into modern Tokyo (which, of course, is stereotypical in that everyone is a frickin’ martial arts master) and weave O’Barr’s Crow iconography into the tapestry of Japanese folklore’s Yatagarusu crow spirit and its job of of being the hand of Heaven in human affairs. The thing is that, well, it really doesn’t work. To be honest I feel this version of The Crow is more Brandon Lee than the Eric Draven Crow was, choosing to utilize martial arts and a pair of twin katanas to dole out justice. On top of that the Jamie Crow is snarky. Yes, you read that right.
THE CROW IS SNARKY.
He’s has wisecracks and I believe what is supposed to be maybe a dark sense of humor. Let me just say that this falls flat as well. Any emotion that Shirley created in Issue #1 of this series is pretty much washed away in Issue #2.
Series artist Kevin Colden’s style fits the classic look and feel of the original Crow series in some respects. I say that because it feels a little out of place in this series, especially in light of how John Shirley is writing it. It’s got a sharp, slightly sketchy look to it, and it works in certain situations that occur in Issue #2 but not all of them. On top of that his mastery of facial expressions is rough; there are many times that the emotion that should be there in each panel is not conveyed by the characters, rendering a few of the scenes that should be emotional emotionless.
I think The Crow: Death and Rebirth #2 proves that this series is worth skipping.
I’ll be waiting for James O’Barr’s return.