If Batman was comic-book Gothic, then The Crow (right) is flat baroque. It's an easy formula. Take one tortured hero, be he Batman, Darkman, the Crow or the forthcoming Shadow. Set him in a scarred urban landscape, a place of perpetual night, twisting alley ways, crumbling spires and advanced decay. Make his motive primal revenge (Batman's parents were murdered, Darkman was disfigured and left for dead, the Crow is a living corpse). Ensure that the villains are sicker than the hero: Batman faced the Joker, the Crow's tormentor sleeps with his sister and the Shadow's flamboyant foe is a loony descendant of Genghis Khan.

And the heroine? She's simultaneously highly important and completely spurious. Vicki Vale could be excised from Batman without much damage, Darkman's Frances McDormand is there for the menacing and The Crow sees the rape and murder of Brandon Lee's intended in the first five minutes. Flat baroque is aimed at the adolescent male, so the real romance is the hero's with himself. He thinks he's sensitive and complex when actually he's just self-indulgent and shallow. He's too into himself to make any emotional space for girls. But girls prove he's heterosexual - he's not that sensitive.

The Crow is both the reductio ad absurdum and pinnacle of the form. It's Goth, grunge and Gothic; three subcultures made one. It's selling the glamour of angst and alienation in the big city to immature boys. All it needs to achieve perfection is Beavis and Butthead popping up to play air guitar and chant: 'Breaking the law, breaking the law'.

(Photograph omitted)