I’m a longtime fan of the Crow phenomenon and the universe of stories that flowed out of it. I still remember seeing the original film with Brandon Lee in the theater and reflecting how tragedy found a way to tie together reality and fiction in one story. From then on I read and watched whatever I could get my hands on that bore the name of The Crow. Admittedly not all of it was amazingly worthwhile (if you’ve seen the straight-to-DVD flick, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, you know very well what I mean), but in the printed world of the graphic novels the stories rang much more true to the original by James O’Barr. They were darker, edgier and poised themselves on the ledge between pain and perseverance, where the depths you were shown made you want to look away at times, yet you yearned to watch the violators get their due. They were stories of redemption and punishment and they never failed.
It’s been a while since we have seen a new story and Curare isn’t just a random addition to the fold. It comes from the mind of O’Barr, not a hired gun by the studios mad to pump out something for the sake of keeping the franchise alive. It also changes the game in terms of how the Crow operates. Those who’ve been through the volumes of stories are used to the Crow bringing someone back from the dead in a physical form in order to exact their vengeance, but in Curare what’s brought back is only the ghost of a small girl who was brutally raped and killed, left in a field to rot alone. An unlucky detective pulls the short straw that night and finds himself drawn into a case that haunts himself, engulfs him and eventually breaks him down until there is almost nothing left.
The little girl follows him through his trial until the time is right to help him take the final step towards ending not only her pain, but his own. There is only the briefest of impressions of the infamous painted face donned by all the previous travelers back from the land of the dead. This story is purely about justice and the lengths some people will go in order to find it.
If you came upon this graphic novel after only watching the first Crow film, it is likely to be jarring in its darkness and brutality, but for those who are not strangers to the other tales from O’Barr, his tone is familiar and relished. The artwork from Antoine Dode layers nicely over the dark story, giving a roughness, an unfinished edge to the characters that makes them even angrier. Dode makes solid choices about what to include in the frame and what to leave to your imagination, allowing you to create something even worse. But once you’ve settled in, he will hit you with an image you just might wish you hadn’t seen, something which sets the rest of the story on its back.
The Crow: Curare is a really nice addition to the franchise and universe of the Crow and old fans should flock to it, while new fans may find themselves impressed with the no-holds-barred brashness of the content, something which is lacking in today’s hyper-colored comic book world.