The Crow: Skinning The Wolves – 8 GPPs
James O'Barr, Jim Terry (Author) Jim Terry (Art)
A powerful story with some impressive moral weight to it. Jim Terry's art is gritty and raw and suits the tone of the story.
Grim setting and profoundly brutal violence won't be for everybody.
The year is 1945. Whilst World War II continues, unspeakable horrors are being perpetuated in European concentration camps. In one such camp, the death of one man brings with it the brutal vengeance of the unjustly persecuted and the idea of hope and salvation, an idea long abandoned by those languishing in the barbed wire hell of the Third Reich.
The Crow by James O’Barr remains a seminal work, a poignant, raw, brutal and powerful tale of vengeance, justice and moral ambiguity with an instantly-recognisible protagonist and memorable imagery. Fuelled by the death of his fiancée at the hands of a drunk driver, experiences in the military and a story about a couple killed for their $20 engagement ring, The Crow was an exercise in catharsis. Not only did it serve as the basis for one of the best early examples of a film based on a comic, back in the days when the idea of Marvel having their own film studio would’ve seemed insane, it was also a smash hit that bubbled up from the underground. Originally published by indie Caliber Comics it went on to sell thousands of copies and get translated into several languages.
Asking James O’ Barr to return to The Crow for the first time since that original opus was a brave move on IDW’s part. The cynical could dismiss it as a half-arsed cash grab; it’s a title that is steeped in expectations and when O’Barr relates in the foreword how the essence of this story comes from another story unrelated to The Crow which sat filed away for years, even the optimistic may start to get concerned as to whether this is going to be a car crash of epic proportions. One only has to look at the recent output of Frank Miller to see how the mighty can fall hard.
However such fears are soon allayed as O’ Barr and co-writer/artist Jim Terry’s tale unfolds.
Skinning The Wolves is not for the faint-hearted it has to be said- just the setting will be enough to put off more sensitive readers and much like Kieron Gillen‘s Uber, there are no doubt those who would question whether this is a viable prospect.
Whilst the mysterious revenant’s first appearance may seem brutal this nothing in comparison to the carnage which is displayed as the tale rattles along.
One of the interesting things about Skinning The Wolves is none of the characters have names, the chief antagonist is referred to only as Commandant and the revenant protagonist has no name at all, in a change from the character of Eric Draven who featured in the The Crow.
Whilst history may tell us the myriad reasons as to why The Nazi’s are vilified for the purposes of this story it has to be seen and in this there’s a difficult balancing act to pull off. On the one hand showing too much will seem like a crass exercise in exploitation whilst too little will make the story ring hollow.
There are definitely moments, especially in the final chapter where things teeter on the edge of this line the overall power of this story saves it from any such failings.
Both chess and opera are integral parts of the narrative here and the way that Götterdämmerung, one of Wagner’s classic opera’s, features into the story here shows a deft subtlety and when the reasons behind why this is so important are revealed it’s more impressive for it.
Things get far more brutal.
Jim Terry’s art plays a big part in Skinning The Wolves, it has a gritty and raw feel and his distinctly oldschool approach of handwriting the lettering onto the original art has an endearingly lo-fi underground feel to it.
The use of shadows works well with the revenant being concealed in shadow for several pages before being revealed in a great full page image.
Impressively though the revenant is vulnerable too, one panel has him with a forlorn look of confusion and the crow, a character in itself here, says ‘Don’t lose your momentum son. You have to finish this.’
Momentum plays a big part in this story, the story of the revenant feeds into the powerful crescendo at the conclusion and the last page finishes with some powerful dialogue and imagery which indicates while the book may have finished, the revenants story hasn’t.
Skinning The Wolves also features some great bonus material in the form of an annotated sketch gallery from Jim Terry, the original art from O’Barr’s project from numerous years ago and a cover gallery.