CRUDE#1 / Writer: Steve Orlando / Artist: Garry Brown / Colorist: Lee Loughridge /Letterer : Thomas Mauer / Publisher: Image Comics / April 11, 2018
Crude isn’t exactly what it says it is; which, in a way, is a detriment to its own story.
I quite imagine these reviews are mostly only read by other writers so to them I must ask: You ever sit down to write something but just can’t get excited about it? You know you’ve got work to do, or work you want to do, but you’re left feeling so ambivalent about the subject that its difficult to move those fingers across the keys?
Crude is a bit of catharsis for its writer Steve Orlando; and sometimes that’s a good thing. Were it not for loss and a need to excise that pain James O’ Barr would have never given us The Crow. Orlando elaborates on this in the final page of this debut issue:
Piotr’s anger is my own; he can do what cannot, lashing out at his demons and ghosts, and holding the whole world accountable. – Steve Orlando, author
Just as I mentioned O’Barr’s seminal work, though; the original Crow comic series hasn’t aged well. It’s a book I love on a personal level, but on an objective one it’s a disjointed mess. The art is inconsistent, transitions are often jarring and out of nowhere, and the plot is arthouse contrived nonsense.
Crude, as I wear my reviewer’s hat, leaves me feeling much the same; though I’m hopeful that the potential I see within it will be fulfilled over the course of its run. There is an interesting story here, but the setup in this first installment meanders between protagonist Piotr Petrovich and his son Kiril through a flashback exposition that provides Piotr’s motivations for the series moving forward.
Across three different time periods we are told that Piotr is a hitman who lies to his son allowing him to believe he is a simple insurance salesman. That son grows up and engages in a polyamorous relationship, something he wishes to do openly but cannot in the strict conservative environment of Russia, causing him to move to Blackstone, a dangerous but lucrative opportunity. Sadly, though, when we jump to the present we learn that Kiril has been killed, setting Piotr off on his revenge arc.
I interviewed Matt Hawkins of Top Cow last year who said something interesting which has stuck with me since:
“Ideas don’t matter, execution does.” – Matt Hawkins, President/COO Top Cow Comics
The idea behind Crude isn’t the most original. We’ve seen revenge plots like this across all forms of media from movies to television to comics. Crude may find its groove in execution and overcome a trite plot revolving around his son being fridged, but as a first issue this does not entice one to make that journey with its protagonist.
Some credit is deserved on the part of Crude’s art team. The unrefined style of Garry Brown is aesthetically pleasing and tailored to this type of story, and Lee Loughridge’s colors really pop throughout. The use of color theory and contrast of cools and warms from page to page lead the eyes and make for an easy stroll despite the slog of a story.
It’s a story with some bloody, visceral moments in its beginnings; and dour, quiet moments throughout the rest but each panel is effective in conveying atmosphere and mood. That silence though, feels deafening at times.
As I mentioned before, Crude is truly anything BUT crude. It’s story is well paced, the exposition gives you everything you need to know going in, the art team does a spectacular job. Unfortunately these pieces that work individually simply don’t properly fit together. Crude’s biggest flaw isn’t that it’s terrible, just terribly mediocre. It’s middling, leaving me feeling like I’m reviewing Justice League, as opposed to something truly bad or truly great like BvS or Wonder Woman, respectfully.
There’s a lot of potential here and I will stay with it for the purpose of reviews to report on whether or not Crude seizes on it, but it is not a book I expect the casual reader to stick with.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 Would rather give living in Blackstone a shot
Dexter Buschetelli thinks he is really clever, but you know better; don’t you? Do you? I dunno, I’m not your mom. Dexter can be found here on DYECB writing reviews and opinion pieces as well as on the website for his podcast, Let’s Get Drunk and Talk Comics.