Of all the entertainment-driven forms of fiction, the hardest to make consistently entertaining while holding onto any literary merit is revenge fiction. Revenge fiction is emotionally driven, rather than plot-driven or character-driven, and has the difficult task of tapping into the emotions of the reader on such a base level that revenge is not grotesque, but desired. It requires a level of emotional understanding and intelligence that is difficult to attain and nearly impossible to maintain over an entire work.
James O’Barr’s cult-classic graphic novel The Crow accomplishes this in spades. Dark, gritty, and unapologetic-ally gory and violent, The Crow tells the story of Eric Draven, who is transformed into the spirit-of-vengeance known as the Crow after he is shot by a violent gang and his girlfriend Shelly is beaten and raped.
The novel the follows Eric as he methodically stalks and tortures those who harmed Shelly, dispatching them in increasingly violent and sadistic ways.
O’Barr does not portray violence as a “good” thing. Eric’s horrific acts are not presented as heroism, but rather as a part of nature that The Crow represents. The Crow here is an agent of order, balancing the scales in a fashion which rarely occurs in real life. Logic does not enter into O’Barr’s narrative, as it is exclusively a story of lashing out after emotional turmoil. O’Barr himself wrote it as a way of dealing with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver.
The Crow is an intensely scary, satisfying story that has been adapted many times, but no adaption comes close to O’Barr’s original classic.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“The novel the follows Eric as he methodically stalks and tortures those who harmed Shelly, dispatching them in increasingly violent and sadistic ways.”