The Crow: Pestilence TPB Review

Written by: Frank Bill

Art by: Drew Moss

Publisher: IDW

There are a lot of us, who had the 90s as our formative years, that go into anything related to The Crow hoping for the best. We’ve seen the sequels. We’ve checked out the comics. Hell, some of us probably even remember the TV show. I honestly wish that more of these iterations felt like they did justice to the property. Sadly, I don’t feel that The Crow: Pestilence is doing much to up the property’s quality average.

By starting off the tale of this particular avenging warrior, Salvador, in Juarez, Mexico, Frank Bill has found a setting that should be rife with possibility. He dabbles with the topics of human trafficking and immigration, but the material doesn’t do much with these subjects apart from using them to give Salvador location after location to travel to, hunting down each of the people responsible for killing him. It’s the narrative at the core of all of The Crow mythos, but it just feels like there’s so many missed opportunities here to say more.

The biggest issue with the story is simply that the reader is not really given any reason to sympathize with Salvador. We see his death in flashbacks, interspersed with the rest of the tale. This, and the fact that we don’t see much else of him pre-death, means that we see him mostly in “kill the bad guys” mode. We don’t get the opportunity to understand his pathos in the way we did with Eric Draven. Add to this a very questionable twist toward the end and Salvador comes across as an odd choice for an individual who would be chosen by the forces that brought him back to life. There is also no explanation given as to why Salvador is wearing the signature face paint. He’s meant to have been a boxer in life, after all, not a luchador.

Given James O’Barr’s loose art style in the original series, and the nature of the art in many other iterations, it’s hard to find much fault with Drew Moss’s art here. There are certain characters that are occasionally difficult to discern from one another, and Salvador himself does fluctuate in appearance throughout the book from hulking muscleman to chiseled Brad Pitt status to looking like he should be ringing the bells in Notre Dame in a couple panels. Other than this, however, my biggest problem with the art is how the flashbacks are handled. The only indication that we’ve gone from current time to a flashback within the book is a very subtle digital filter over the art. This sometimes makes the back and forth in time nature of the narrative disorienting. To further the disorientation, there is a choppy nature to scene changes. There is one scene, in particular, in which we exit from a flashback to Salvador mid-punch to a sentry’s jaw on the front porch of a house he is storming.

The dialogue is more problematic. All of the characters in the book seem to be speaking with the same voice, and it’s an odd voice at that. There’s a swing back and forth between very dramatic, theatrical dialogue and what I’m assuming Bill intends to be a form of broken English spoken by the Hispanic characters. Unless there’s just been a choice to not indicate when characters are speaking one language or the other, then all of the characters are either always speaking Spanish-which would negate the need for it to be broken-or they’re always speaking broken English, even when we’re viewing a scene between two Spanish speaking characters. There was no point through the entire trade where I felt like I could fall into a rhythm with the dialogue, rather than it drawing me back out of the narrative.

I wish I could have enjoyed The Crow: Pestilence, I really do. As a fan of the original material, the first movie, and some of the subsequent comics, this is a mythos that I want to thrive. Unfortunately, we’re at the point where it’s going to take more than throwing a new variation on the same old story onto the page to revive interest. Unlike poor Salvador, who, perhaps, should have stayed quietly dead.