As David confronts the man who caused the deaths of himself and his fellow parishioners, there is yet one more shock to come to terms with. He has not returned from the grave alone. Someone else is also looking to deliver some swift retribution in the name of The Crow.
THE CROW: MEMENTO MORI #4
Writer: Roberto Recchioni
Artist: Werther Dell’edera
Colors: Giovanna Niro
Letters: Giovanni Marinovich
ALSO: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SUICIDE
Writer: Micol Beltrami
Artist: Daniele Serra
Letters: Giovanni Marinovich
Publisher: IDW Comics
What You Need to Know:
After dying during a terrorist attack on his church group, David returns from the grave. Among the fallen in the congregation of massacred parishioners was also his girlfriend Sarah. Now imbued with the power of the Crow he is filled with the need for vengeance and seeks out those who murdered so callously and follows a bloody path of destruction that leads to the door of none other than his mentor within the Church, Father Raphael.
What You’ll Find Out:
David comes face to face with his nemesis, in the form of his mentor and father figure Raphael who indoctrinated him and called him as one of Gods Warriors, or the Legion Of Christ. It seems Father Raphael has been more hardline than was led to believe and is the mastermind behind the terror attack that took the life of David, his girlfriend Sarah and many others that day. At first, denying it, he finally goes on to admit his crime, once David says he can see the truth of his acts, though not the motive.
He confesses he had not wanted David to be a victim but was unable to get him out in time. David is angry and asks what about Sarah. Raphael denies that she loved him, only God could love him. She was impure and so deserved her fate. He goes on to say he believes he was chosen, a favored son of God, sent to help Raphael fight his war. As he approaches and embraces David they are interrupted by a voice from behind.
Raphael attempts to shield David from her, calling her a whore and Sarah raises her gun to shoot Raphael, telling him he’s a disgusting pervert and he’s making it easy for her. When David deflects her gun she is forced to remind him that Raphael is the one who killed him in the first place and Raphael tells him not to listen as David asserts Raphael is fighting God’s war, clearly struggling with the news. David’s utter confusion is compounded by a lightning strike that seems to remove his immunity to injury and he begins to bleed. As Sarah reloads her shotgun she explains to him that God has nothing to do with it and blows Raphael’s brains out.
As David kneels in shock and pain in front of Sarah, she does the only merciful thing she can. With tears in her eyes, she shoots him and says she is sorry too. Up on the roof, one of two crows flies away at the sound, leaving another dead on it’s back. As she walks through a graveyard in the rain Sarah Palladino recounts how she died only to rise again like the Son of God. But unlike him, she brings not hope and redemption, but vengeance. Someone has murdered love on this Earth….
The backup story tells the tragic true story of Evelyn McHale, who takes her life in a spectacularly memorable fashion, by throwing herself from the Empire State Building and leaving not only a cryptic suicide note with some very specific requests but also a remarkably undamaged body, given the circumstances of her demise. She is then lovingly redeemed, having her return to her one true love, Jane, who we see alone at home grieving until there is a knock at her door and she opens it to find Evelyn waiting for her, Crow on her shoulder overseeing the whole encounter. And so the bittersweet ending to this tale is diametrically opposed to many Crow narratives we know, in that she returns not for revenge, but for love.
What Just Happened?
Once again the backup tale is as memorable and tragic as the feature story. And also, startlingly, it is the true story of the death of Evelyn McHale, up to the point of her becoming a denizen of the Crow of course. From Evelyn’s origins, family and the way she died, everything is taken from the true incident that led to her death, including her coat and bag folded on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, containing the letter which is taken verbatim and Evelyn did indeed commit suicide the day after visiting her fiancé Barry Rhodes. Aside from the fact she was one of nine children, not seven and her father was a bank examiner/auditor not a banker, the only artistic licence taken is that she commits suicide out of fear of her feelings of homosexuality, which was something never confirmed in life, but is realistic for the time and circumstances, especially concerning mention of her “mothers tendencies” in her suicide letter. And it seems to me the story itself hinges on the photograph taken after the incident, which has become somewhat famous over the years and fixed in the public consciousness. Taken by photography student Robert Wiles, it has been compared to what is widely regarded as the most iconic suicide photograph ever seen, that of the self-immolation of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, famously taken by Malcolm Wilde Browne at a busy Saigon road intersection in 1963. The photograph of Evelyn McHale’s death is often referred to as “the most beautiful suicide”, thus informing the title of the story, a great touch from writer Micol Beltrami, who manages to make it sentimentally tragic without becoming sensationalist.
The art of Daniele Serra also does a wonderful job of showing the tragic beauty of the real world incident, as well as show the poignancy of the return of Evelyn to her love, proving the Crow isn’t always about blood and retribution. She also perfectly recreates the original photograph as shown below. It is not the first showing in artistic form and has also been referenced many times in the media. Most notably used by Andy Warhol in his print Suicide (Fallen Body) it was also recreated in the video of David Bowie’s ‘Jump They Say‘ and referenced in Taylor Swifts ‘Bad Blood‘ video. As well as being homaged for the cover to the album ‘Surviving You, Always‘ by Saccharine Trust. And finally and most tellingly, the cover of the album Gilt, by Machines of Loving Grace shares the same image. And so the creators of this tale, as with that of the second issue of the main story, where the DJ plays Color Me Once by The Violent Femmes, have linked the narrative irrevocably to the Crow mythos, as fans of The Crow will recognise both Machines and The Violent Femmes as both being used on the soundtrack album for the original Crow movie.
And so on to the lead story. I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed this story, more than so many over the last few years, as the subject matter it tackles has been so visceral and close to today’s problems in society. Roberto Recchioni has done an excellent job with this whole narrative from the start, dealing with some pretty hard-hitting topics. From terrorism and the death of youth, right up to the indoctrination of young people into religious fundamentalism. Not to mention the youngest person to take the mantle of Crow ever seen. In much the same way as last issue, we were shown a twist that was surely not to be expected. Last issue was that of the identity of David’s nemesis, the one who sets him on the path of retribution in the first place. For myself, I believed David would stray from his assigned path to kill Father Raphael simply out of a need for personal revenge, because of the abusive behavior he exhibits toward Sarah. And so it was a neat twist having him be the true villain of the piece as well. Now the double shock of seeing Sarah come back in the same way as David was a great surprise. And now he tops it all off this final issue with some extremely manipulative behavior from Raphael and also his seeming double standards toward Sarah. He has definitely excelled himself here. It was slightly disturbing to see the depiction of the relationship between Raphael and David, making Raphael seem even more sinister than he first appeared.
And the colors of Giovanna Niro are perfectly muted and understated and don’t overpower the art, but give it a soft-fleshed outlook that makes it seem all too real. With Giovanni Marinovich’s lettering and contrast in word bubbles to Raphael giving the conversations between him and the two Crows the much-needed sense of proportion and opposition. And speaking of the art, Werther Dell’edera has delivered some beautifully poignant imagery all through and Sarah is a truly wonderful and rare sight as a female Crow, the most memorable being Iris Shaw in The Crow: Flesh and Blood. This version is something I’d like to see more often. Especially with the very interesting nod to the original Crow with used bullet casings strung into her hair, and even the exact same makeup, as that in itself has differed a little over the years, though always echoing the original style.
This also raises many questions. Could there be a true ‘Murder of Crows’? In the original story could we have been faced with Shelly also coming back to seek revenge alongside Eric? But then the mind goes to places of complete absurdity. In this tale, the whole congregation was killed. That would imply there is a whole busload of vengeance-seeking wraiths? No, it’s far better to believe it is just the two, working separately and unknowing of each other, to come to the same goal. This would make the ethos of the Crow that much more poetic. This way if one failed, as David seemed to be doing toward the end, there is always a contingency plan to ensure the fate of the evildoer is secured.
And how typical that Raphael, in his illogical religious zeal, sees Davids return as the divine will of God, yet when the truth is shown to him in the form of Sarah, she is the abomination. In his eyes, David had the right to bear arms for the religious war, but Sarah was unworthy. This is symptomatic of the Italian fascist doctrine and most especially that of Mussolini himself in that “war is to man what maternity is to the woman”. That and he was clearly also threatened by her bold attitude and her ability to perceive him as the manipulator he was.
He was working his way into David’s mind and distracting him from his true goal, something that we know weakens the strength and invulnerability of the Crow’s power to heal, but she saw him as he truly was and so became the ace card that ended the threat. The only shame about this was that David then had to die too. I thought given the love they had shared that she would make him stronger again and they would finish the job together. A job which seems a long way off, as her final words imply. There is much more work for her to do. I for one would like to have seen her continue her mission and see where it takes her.
Final Thought: Love will conquer all? Not this time. The female of the species truly is more deadly than the male.
Sadly not but let’s refrain from saying Nevermore… Just no more Crow tales to come…FOR NOW. After all, it can’t rain all the time.
Until then look for The Crow: Vault of Shadows. Released in April 2018 it collects The Crow: Dead Time, The Crow: Flesh & Blood and The Crow: Wild Justice, each of which originally ran as 3 issue miniseries, published in 1996.
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