Review: The Crow Momento Mori #1

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
March 29th, 2018

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: The Crow Momento Mori #1
Comics
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IDW has been publishing The Crow since 2012 with several mini-series, the last being 2014’s Pestilence. But the supernatural killer is back in a new series, with a new body and our contributor, Darryl Robson, takes a look at the first issue.

James O’Barr’s original comic strip of The Crow was an emotional, gut-wrenching work of Art. It was awash with personal suffering; survival guilt; extreme violence; and was inspired by so many popular rock and indie bands of the time. None of the follow-ups have lived up to the legacy of that original story, it is, after all, a difficult act to follow but that hasn’t stopped a number of writers, artists, and publishers having a good try.

IDW has published a number of mini-series since they acquired the license back in 2012 but Momento Mori is the first one since 2014. As per previous comics, the location has changed and the spirit brought back is new, the Crow of the title is the only link to past adventures. The world has changed: is there still a place in it for this form of hard-hitting, spirit-driven vengeance?

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Synopsis

Rome. David Amadio is a 16-year-old altar boy leading a holy procession through the streets. Thousands have gathered to see the spectacle but a tragedy is about to unfold which leaves David laying in a pool of his own blood on the streets, his life ebbing away.

In his final moments, the boy is visited by The Crow and his body is resurrected in order to seek vengeance and punish those who caused his death.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Analysis

Momento Mori is set in Rome which is fitting for the story that Roberto Recchioni wants to tell. Whereas J O’Barr’s original script took a lot of its inspiration from music, here Recchioni combs religious texts to use as captions leading into the narrative. Dubious quotes are used to reflect the violence of the belief systems and as a foreshadowing of the action towards the end of this issue.

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As readers, we are introduced to the city of Rome before any of the characters in the story. The setting is meticulously laid out through the visuals by Werther Dell’Edera and Giovanna Niro and the choice scripture of Recchioni. The opening has more in common with the 1990’s film version of The Crow than it does the original comic. It’s dark, it’s gothic and ruinous, it’s swimming in the constant rain.  The tone of the narrative is more important here than character, although it’s possible to argue that the tone sets the character. The deluge and grimness is a physical projection of the inner turmoil of David, the central character, and returnee from the dead. His destructive emotional state is reflected by the weather and location around him.

It is important that this particular story is set in Rome because David is surrounded by religion in his life and can’t escape it in death. Recchioni shows that the scripture David grew up with can take on a darker meaning when used to justify violent actions. The manner by which David is killed is culturally relevant and the type of terrorist attack it resembles is still fresh in the minds of many Europeans. Recchioni is using real-life anger and frustration to lead his narrative.

David acts out in ways that the general public can’t but perhaps want to. A gut reaction is a vengeance; take the lives of those who have destroyed one’s we love. As such Recchioni is able to get the reader on David’s side before he starts to raise questions about David’s actions. It’s easy to believe a straight cut ‘they deserve it’ reaction until you are faced with the terrorists. What Recchioni attempts to do in this comic is show that the terrorists are not simple figures of evil but are more complex people, manipulated by their beliefs. He contrasts this with Biblical references soaked in violent language which, taken out of context, can be used to incite violence.

A part of the impact of this is lost however by David’s treatment of the terrorists. He was always going to kill them, this is the point of most tales of The Crow, however, the religious zeal he employs is disturbing. David appears to be taking pleasure from the killing and Recchioni gives the impression that David is doing God’s work. This is a stark contrast to Eric Draven from the original and is a difficult aspect to endorse. The sympathy built up in the first half of the comic for David is quickly dispersed in the second half. And the vengeful spirit character from The Crow has to be sympathetic otherwise the concept of the story fails.

The visual depiction of David is also troublesome. The reader is lead to believe that David is a young, 16-year-old Altar boy, however, Dell’Edera’s early illustrations don’t match this description. As the reader moves through the comic, the image of David seems to change and, in the heat of violence, he does appear to be younger but this, in turn, makes these scenes that much more disturbing.

Credit: IDW Publishing

The Crow serials have never been easy reads, often with the very difficult subject matter, which is why getting the central character right is so important. In Momento Mori, I’m not sure the creators hit the mark. Maybe over the course of the series, David will change. The narrative has a very religious theme to it so maybe there is a redemption story here where David will learn remorse for his actions and atone for his post-life sins. But here, in the first issue, David seems too uncharacteristically cold-hearted.

Aside from this, the artwork is wonderful with a brilliant contrast between the past and present scenes. The constant raining and dark blue washes of Rome are oppressive and create an overpowering atmosphere. The black caption boxes also add to the gothic essence running through this comic. Momento Mori has the feel of a teenage angst-ridden story. Although the music isn’t referenced to, those 80’s rock bands that influenced J O’Barr still seem to have some sway over the style of The Crow. You can almost hear The Cure playing while you read this comic.

The Crow: Momento Mori illustrates great potential and the atmospheric location is rendered beautifully. The mood and tone of the comic are, for the most part, spot on. It is a shame that the central character is not up to the same level as the rest of the comic. His depiction and many characteristics are problematic and turn the reader against him. In time we may grow to support this incarnation of The Crow but in the first issue, he leaves us as cold as the streets he watches over.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson, but he does remember to write more about comics on his website comiccutdown.com

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