Review - Harrow County #1

"The folk of Harrow County put the witch to death...but the witch did not die easily."

Crystal Lake. Elm Street. Haddonfield. These are all locales that boast entities hellbent on inflicting as much pain and misery as possible on their inhabitants with what would seem to be no apparent remorse. Dark Horse Comics has one more locale they'd like to add to the list in Harrow County, introduced to readers in Harrow County #1. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Tyler Crook.

Emmy always knew that the deep, dark woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts, goblins, and zombies. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.

If Crook's cover wasn't indication enough, Harrow County #1 is delving into some pretty dark territory. The most apt comparison to Harrow County #1 would Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock, but Bunn isn't taking it down the same path. In Harrow County #1, the setting is more akin to the aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials, where some of those accused (right or wrong) promised to take revenge for their punishment. Bunn's pacing is very deliberate, as he peels back layers of Emmy's life slowly in a way that affords her discovery alongside that of the reader. The dialogue boasts a southern charm to it that immediately sets the tone for the players involved, as well as a setting that's so far removed from "civilization" that the thought of backwoods witchcraft occurring seems plausible. And Emmy's characterization is extremely insightful, as Bunn manages to tell the reader everything he wants you to know about her in the first issue through her actions and interactions with others.

Crook's cover for Harrow County #1 is eerily terrifying, evoking a sense of dread captured within the issue itself. The use of watercolors is especially profound in Harrow County #1 in that it gives the book a series of depths to it that mirror the hidden secrets of Harrow County itself. Each panel seems infused with centuries of evil pervasive throughout the county, all of which are easily recognizable by Crook's harsh watercolors. And despite the uniform nature of watercolors in general, Crook manages to make each setting feel distinct from the others through different textures and color choices. Pages featuring the forest for instance look serene, belying the evil that clearly resides within.

Harrow County #1 shows potential of being a pretty terrifying series and it definitely starts off by giving readers a glimpse at the evil hidden within. Emmy is a somewhat typical character in that she has no idea what's coming up for her, but the fact that she does show some inkling that something strange is afoot is refreshing. Bunn's dialogue is sharp, exchanged between characters in a way that gives the reader enough to know what's going on and infer the insidiousness yet to come. Crook's illustrations are almost frenetic in their approach, blending defining lines and watercolor finishes in a way that gives every character an almost distant presence reflected by their facial expressions. Harrow County #1 is a book that will likely turn a lot of heads and is worth checking out if you're looking for a new horror comic to read.

Harrow County #1 is in stores May 13.