I’ve been reading V for Vendetta (Alan Moore and David Lloyd) and The Crow (James O’Barr). These two books gave me some depth where graphic novels are concerned. I’ve not generally been a follower of graphic novels or comics but I like the Sandman stuff and A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. However, I would never have even looked at any of it without these first two titles.
The Crow is one of the darkest and most beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. There is no softness in it, no escape from the pain and anger of it. Love and pain existing hand in hand, as they ever do. Here are some of my favourite bits:
In the city, where angels fear to hover and devils come to croon, the sex of the night lets down her black narcotic hair under a yellow opium moon. Here a shadow of a shadow, and earthbound ghost shivers, not from October chill, but in erotic pain. He say to his dead lover, “We should never have come here, with flesh so soft and hearts so unwise, but like tigers in tall, tall grass, like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, we sucked in our fear and we came here.” Now all the atrocities are replayed like a late, late show. “We came here but we never should have stayed. Though we had inertia and radius and depth, we took the last train with velocity and passed our own deaths.”
So the crow spirals down through a collapsed dream and the only sound he makes is …
… like a concave scream.
THE TIDES OF SIN DRAW TIGHTER AND BRIGHTER,
THE HOURS BECOME HEAVIER AND WEIGHTED
AND THE SHADOWS SMILE, DARK AND WILD.
THIS IS WHEN HOPE AND DESIRE COLLAPSE,
THE ARC OF THE DREAM DESCENDS INTO DESPAIR,
WHEN INNOCENT LOVERS DANCE
LIKE ANGELS ON FIRE.
THIS IS WHEN THE NIGHT COMES DOWN,
A HAMMER ON AN ANVIL,
AND THE ONLY ABSOLUTION ACCEPTED
IS A LEGACY OF BRUTALITY,
A SINGLE NOTE RINGS ON AND ON AND ON.
some lines from DESPAIR
EYES LIKE CANDY, IT HAS EYES LIKE CANDY
HARD AND BLUE, BUT SOFT AS KITTENS FEET
ITS SPINE IS A VERTICAL SCREAM
SLOW AS CONCRETE, BLURRED AS A DREAM
IT SPINS ROUND AND DOWN ON AN AXIS OF ATROCITY
FUELED BY INERTIA, DEPTH, RADIUS, AND VELOCITY,
ITS SOUL – A TWISTED WRECKAGE OF DESPAIR AND PAIN
AND THE SPIDERS INSIDE ARE JUST PRAYING FOR RAIN
You cannot read this and be unchanged, unhinged, unmade. I wondered where the darkness for Broken came from. This is part of the place. How do I know it? Why do I feel it coiling within?
James O’Barr was fueled by the death of someone he loved and his inability to exact some kind of revenge. Mercifully, I’ve not had that. I pray I never do. Because I was born with a ravening soul, a screaming, twisting side that is not easily put away. Oh, I’ve learned to dull its edge. I’ve learned part of where it comes from. I’ve learned to believe in the memory of lives long past. My lives. I’ve learned to meditate and turn the beast to other thoughts. I’ve learned not to destroy myself. But it was hard.
I first read The Crow in a bookstore. It must have been a few years ago. I wanted to stop reading and run away from the pain but I couldn’t. I read the entire thing and I sobbed. There in the Graphic Novel section, my pain spilled out past the causeway of my control and I was opened. I didn’t buy it then, I was too raw, too afraid. I went home and held my son and prayed to the Gifting God to keep him safe for always. For as long as I’m alive.
It took me some years to work up the courage to buy it. Why should a book undo me in this way? Well, this is the power of story. To touch us and find the cords that bind us tight. Some stories are a salve that encourage us to keep going, some are rich and deep and bring us beauty; this one is a razor. And only those who can understand the crow, who have heard his whispery voice, feel the razor cutting into them.
I know there is a lot of violence in it. I know it’s a bloody story. But if you have ever felt broken and suffocated and such hurt that your heart tears with every breath, read it.
It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Love and pain, dancing their mad dance across the universe. With beauty trailing in their wake. Read it. There is a message in it, delicate and precious, guarded by the violence. It’s not a book that has significantly changed my life but it is one that I hold as close as my own heart.