Saturday, December 14, 2013

Where Flies The Black Crow, There Flies--Bewilderment


When you go Christmas shopping with Steve Rogers, a/k/a Captain America, you might want to brace yourself for situations potentially more dangerous than braving the dog-eat-dog stampedes taking place in department stores:



Steve has previously had two disturbing encounters with a large, fearsome crow that briefly attacked and then fled. Finally, it seems as if his foe is ready to reveal himself, and in more human form:



Steve has obviously been caught off-guard by the stranger's power. But this is Captain America, after all, and he seizes the advantage almost immediately. Unfortunately, he discovers again that this is no ordinary foe:




So who is this attacker? Why target Cap on Christmas Eve? And why suddenly turn away and flee, when he seemingly had Cap at his mercy?

It turns out that Jesse Black Crow (or simply "Black Crow" if you go up against him) has another facet to his existence we need to be aware of:




In a tale written by J.M. DeMatteis, Black Crow's power has a somewhat enigmatic quality, which perhaps doesn't surprise those of you who are familiar with DeMatteis's style. Many of DeMatteis's stories take a "there are more things in heaven and earth..." approach, presenting a mysterious force in a story but feeling no need to explain it fully. As an example, have a look at Black Crow's origin, the circumstances of which are understandable and explainable. That is, up to a point:



Look at all the things we skipped right past. We don't know why Jesse wasn't killed by a 20-story fall (presumably landing on concrete, since the accident takes place in the city). We don't know where his visions originate. We don't know how he gained the ability to shape-shift, if you can call it something as simple as that. We don't know why his visions are accompanied by blackouts, and dreams, and pain. All we do know about him at this point is that he has a deep resentment of how his people have been treated throughout American history, and that he seeks retribution through the death of one man:



And yet, he'll do so without anger. Without hatred. I'm sorry, didn't we just spend two full pages establishing that those were the things which fed Black Crow's agenda here?

So Black Crow baits Cap into a final encounter, this time on the Brooklyn Bridge, where he demonstrates another ability (amidst more contradictions, of course):



When Cap joins him atop the bridge, I'm sorry to say we get as much of an explanation behind Black Crow's actions as we're likely to get:



Cap may consider Black Crow one of the less maniacal, more clear-headed opponents he's faced, at least as far as his purpose in his own mind--but that doesn't mean his words make any sense to Cap, nor is he inclined to listen any further. And so the battle goes on. But darned if Cap still isn't trying to get through to him:



Since Black Crow can move through the air, the fall is no threat to him. But he sees an opportunity to finally make good on his promise of death to Cap:



Now, you're probably thinking that the end of this battle is where everything is going to make some kind of sense. I suppose it does--to Mr. DeMatteis, that is:



You know, I was almost laughing along with Black Crow, at this point, but I still gave Cap the benefit of the doubt. He was going to later explain this capitulation, wasn't he? Or maybe Black Crow would elaborate on why it was important? This is the wrap-up, and we'd like some answers!

I'm sorry, but you're not getting anything of the kind. You get this, instead:



For all intents and purposes, you've seen the end to this story. Pfft. Done. The next page jumps us ahead several days, where we see Cap and the Avengers finding the Beyonder's portal in Central Park--transporting them all to Jim Shooter's the Beyonder's Secret War, which effectively snatches the rug out from under us as far as wrapping this story up a little more satisfactorily. It's possible that the Secret War teaser pulled the rug out from under DeMatteis, as well, cutting his story short and depriving him of the room he needed for the wrap-up. I'd like to think so. In my mind, I keep asking myself "What have I not understood here? Did I somehow miss the point of this story?" Apparently, alert reader Kevin Hall had similar thoughts on the letters page which covered that issue:

"I found [the story] entertaining and exciting but I found the ending a little hard to swallow. After fighting Cap for five pages, the Black Crow calmed by having Cap kneel before him. He kept saying he had to kill Cap, but then in the end he doesn't do it. I don't understand that at all. Please explain."

Marvel's response deferred to the next letter to clear up, this one written by alert reader Billi Ford:

"...Cap kneeled to the Black Crow because the Black Crow is Cap's spiritual precursor. They, along with such super heroes as America Eagle [sic], Patriot, Miss America, and the Spirit of '76, represent the multiracial entity that is called 'America.' "

Which, I'm sorry, Billi, doesn't do it for me.  But, hey, if the Earth Spirit's happy, I'm happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually got attacked by a crow one time (the bird, I mean).
It may sound funny now, but...well, I guess it is pretty funny, now that I think about it. I ran like hell. Those are mean birds. I felt like I was getting strafed by the Luftwaffe.

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