by Etienne Paul, CMRO Contributing Writer
The Crow: Curare
Written by James O’Barr , Art by Antoine Dode
This book has changed my opinion about a lot of things. The first thing is that I now have a second item to add to my ‘no zombies in my reviews’ clause; ‘No more child abuse.’ I clearly have a very sheltered upbringing in comics because this takes me from one shock to the next, not at first in a gratuitous visual way, but through the dialogue.
This is definitely going to be my shortest review, by quite a long way because I do not want to talk about this too much. Here comes the big contradiction; I hate and despise this, but it is a very good book. I throw out the word ‘hate’ and ‘dislike’ a lot when talking about most of life. ‘I hate that colour’ or ‘I hate cauliflower.’ No I do not; I have a mild dislike for them, so mild in fact that in other circumstances I would not notice that colour and would probably eat the offending vegetable. I hate this book so much because it is so well done; it is meant to be hated. You know that cliché that hate and love are full circle from each other, well that is how this makes me feel.
I read through this book once and I have already deleted the review copy so apologies if I make any mistakes from here on because in a fit of pique I removed my only point of reference. To be honest, I almost did it after reading the first chapter of the book, but fortunately I did not because not having the resolution would have made it worse than seeing it through. This is a story about one person and his fight for justice, really he is the only person in the entire story. Other people flash in an out, his wife, the police chief and the scum that he dealt with on a day to day basis. However they are not characters, they are ghosts of the past, memories as he feverishly tries to piece together a crime through the fog of years and the cloud of alcohol.
A very young girl was murdered, not just murdered, but every imaginable crime and a few unimaginable ones were also carried out on her. All of this happens in the first few pages and it is a downward spiral from here. The main character is the police detective given the case to solve and how his single minded focus on this case drives him to drink, to lose his family, to scare his children and finally to the point of madness where a crow and a ghost of a girl are almost normal to him.
Never before in my life have I been grateful that an artist’s style was ‘imprecise.’ Had this have been drawn by someone like Ribic or Alphona I think I would have been sick, or more likely they would have gone mad trying to draw it. The concepts that this covers are so twisted and horrible that trying to put it onto paper in an anatomically correct, precise fashion would utterly mess with your mind. It actually shows you very little, nothing in fact, of the heinous crimes that it describes, but listening to the coroner describing the crimes while all you can see is a small child’s foot on a slab is actually more disturbing that being shown it.
The best way I can describe this book is that anyone who has read this review and wants to read this book, you should go and check yourself in at your local mental health centre. Perversely, anyone who has read this and decided that this book is not for them, you should go and read it. I am not too proud to say that there was more than a little tear in my eye when I finished reading, so now I am off to slam a couple of doors so that my daughter wakes up and I have an excuse to go and give her a hug.