Cullen Bunn (writer) and Tyler Crook (artist) team up for a spin a gruesomely terrifying southern gothic fairy tale. Is it good?
Harrow County #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
When the people of Harrow County find out Hester Beck is a witch, they’re surprisingly cool about it…at first. She uses her powers to help heal people, so the whole ‘dark magic’ thing kind of gets ignored.
But once babies start getting stolen and Lovecraftian creatures start showing up, the townsfolks draw a line in the sand. If you’re a witch in the 1800’s, that line means getting killed about six different ways while getting burned for good measure. But Hester has no intention of going quietly. Otherwise, this would be a very short comic.
The story then flashes forward in time to the same farm where Hester was hung. A little girl who lives there named Emmy is haunted by strange feelings and visions—particularly with regards to a particularly strange/demonic looking tree. Then livestock start dying, one of which Emmy might have been able to heal. You can see where this is going, right?
No you don’t, actually. After getting to know Emmy’s father and another family (who both had a hand in ‘killing’ Hester), Emmy wanders into the woods alone and finds an unfamiliar boy. She follows him into a briar patch and sees one of the most unsettling things imaginable.
Is It Good?
…which is really cool for a few seconds. Then you look down at the page and it says ‘To Be Continued.’
Look, I get that this just the first issue and there’s going to be a good deal of mystery involved with this story. But that ending, while shocking, felt like it came completely out of nowhere. Luckily, the rest of the book is plenty good enough to make want to see what happens next.
Tyler Crook has some of the most incongruently beautiful artwork I’ve ever seen. His landscapes and people are so soft and beautiful, then WHAM! He hits you with blood and gore so hard it makes your own eyes pop out.
On the writing end, Bunn gives us on hell of a good opening sequence, then slows things down…maybe a little too much. I liked the interaction between Emmy and her father (and her father’s interaction with Riah), but it lost quite a bit of the good momentum it started with. And once again, that ending just didn’t really have a hook into anything. I mean, we should at least know who a kid is before he gets skinned alive inside witch’s briar patch, right?
All that being said, the excellent character work and superb art still makes this a solid opening chapter. It’s also helped by a really cool one page epilogue written by Crook and drawn by Own Gieni. Combined with the compelling main story, and a fantastic opening, Harrow County definitely worth a return visit next month.