The Crow: Skinning the Wolves #1 marks James O’Barr‘s return to his most famous creation. With only three issues, the series presumably has to play catch-up right from the start. Here’s the official description from IDW:
James O’Barr returns to The Crow! In part one of this special three-part tale, “Returning from a Journey,” O’Barr and artist Jim Terry craft a harrowing tale set in a concentration camp in 1945 Europe. The night train is being unloaded. And one of the passengers is making a return visit…
Have you ever finished reading a comic and found yourself counting the pages to be sure there are as many as there should be? That was the case for me here. Skinning the Wolves goes by quickly, and there are numerous scenes with little or no dialogue. The result is that not much happens in the way of plot development, despite the fact that there are only two issues to go. It’s also important to note that the Crow doesn’t appear in his traditional form, with the white skin and black dagger marks around the eyes. Rather, we get a zombie of sorts: unlike most zombies, he talks and has a purpose (revenge) but he’s full of bullet holes and missing an eye just the same.
While there may not many story details to absorb, O’Barr still creates what might be called an emotional plot. The concentration camp setting is, of course, rife with emotional imagery, and O’Barr takes full advantage, greatly assisted by Jim Terry’s art. The most powerful image: early on, we see a girl arriving in the camp holding her doll; later, we see it being crushed in the snow under a booted foot.
Terry’s pencils are crucial to the emotional current of the book. The lack of dialogue means that O’Barr relies heavily on Terry for much of the storytelling (although Barr himself handles the layouts). Terry’s characters have a blocky stiffness that’s put to good use here, as it not only keeps the Nazi’s standing straight, but also recalls the simpler art styles of comics from that era. His faces are a bit stiff as well, but he still succeeds in capturing both the Nazi’s cruelty and the Jews’ haggard sense of shock and despair.
The Crow: Skinning the Wolves #1 somehow manages to fly by while simultaneously getting the series off to a slow start. Neither problem, however (if the first can even be called that), is enough to derail the story’s powerful emotional resonance. Still, there must be a lot of ground left to cover, and with only two issues to go, we’re already behind.