THE CROW: LETHE #2, available on June 17th from IDW Publishing, pulls away the veil of Null Narcos’ amnesia to show him his purpose as the latest Crow. Unfortunately, denying his memories and past opened the door for a scavenger to kill Null’s friends. It’s un-dead against un-dead in this violent and bloody (good) issue.
Peach Momoko’s cover captures the right tone of goth flavored with sideshow freak. Narcos wearing the Western hat, combined with bird bones, evokes a distinctively ‘cowboy’ feel. And the general WANTED poster composition perfectly reflects the nature of the story inside.
Tim Seeley’s story works by playing with the fringes of reality. We know there are traveling sideshows that exist and wander through the lonely towns of America. We know those sideshows offer acts that surprise, titillate, and repulse. So Seeley’s world, although populated by a collection of bizarre characters, lingers right on the periphery of what’s real.
Null Narcos, the latest Crow, has been arrested for Bust’s murder. His interrogation, and subsequent lockup with Benga, forces Null to face the memories he’s been avoiding. The new knowledge gives Null his purpose in resurrection and reveals the origin of the real murderer.
Without spoiling anything, this issue was surprisingly gory. Null’s awakening is voluntarily brought on by pain and violence, and the big battle between Null and the villain is probably the most creative use of circus tent poles I’ve ever seen. You learn a little bit about the Crow’s backstory, you get a little insight into what happens when the Crow avoids his duty, and you get a pretty kickass fight scene. All in all, a solid issue by Seeley.
Ilias Kyriazis’ art is exploitative without being cheap. All of Kyriazis’ character designs keep their oddities on full display. You see the armless woman (“Stalk”) in all her glory, and she’s treated as just another person with an unusual difference. Likewise, Benga’s tiger stripes and Masterpiece’s emaciated frame all combine to form a motley crew that appreciates Null for his unusual look while effectively hiding in plain sight.
Likewise, Morgrau’s design looks just like you would expect a scavenging vulture to look like in human, albeit un-dead, form. The use of a bomber jacket works just as well here as when Michael Keaton used it for a similar effect in Spiderman: Homecoming. The net effect is the visage of a surly bird of prey that’s equal parts tough and deadly.
Katrina Mae Hao’s coloring is top-notch in this issue. Contrary to previous Crow incarnations and O’Barr’s original B&W compendium, the main character is typically cast in dark shadow in gritty urban scenes. In this issue, Hao is tasked with coloring the sunny, dusty back roads of the American mid-west while still keeping the Crow’s signature style sufficiently glum. The colors of every scene are vivid, and the blood, when it starts to copiously flow, is shockingly red. Hao also uses the blood’s red brilliance to highlight silhouette scenes when Null and Benga perform their stage show. It risks coming across as schlocky and cheap…but it doesn’t.
Excellent work here by Hao.
Samuel Murray’s lettering is most effective during Null’s dream/vision sequence. In the scene, Null is getting lectured by Death(?) about his mistakes and what he needs to do to correct what’s happening. The scene is drawn and colored like an old. B&W film, so Murray’s choice of reverse bolding and placement adds the right flare of disembodied voice, tinged with death and gloom. It’s a great choice of lettering that keeps the scene moving when the reader is pulled out of the action in the middle of a big fight scene.
THE CROW: LETHE #2, available on June 17th from IDW, pulls you into a world that’s almost real for a thriller filled with truly evil villains and big, bloody battles. The characters are bizarrely fascinating, and the art team hits all the right notes for a Crow story. Worth picking up.