Harrow County - Volume 1: Countless Haints
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art & Letters: Tyler Crook
I came to the Harrow County series back when I was reading single issues. Dark Horse comics had just started to appear on ComiXology (their Cold War was finally over), and I was looking for something of the macabre to add to my pull-list, while I waited for DC and Marvel to figure out what the hell they were doing. Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook have woven a sumptuous tale of horror, teenage adolescence, and life in a small southern town that feels all-together genuine and creepy as frakk.
The setup is that years ago, a bunch of townsfolk rose up against a professed witch and struck her down, with burning at a stake and several other methods of homicide. As one would think, the witch proclaimed that she would return, expired, and the citizens of Oz went on with their merry lives. As luck would have it, Emmy is the reincarnation of said witch, and is about to turn 18 to boot. You can guess the rest.
Volume 1 of Harrow County, the trades, subtitled Countless Haints, collects the first four issues of this series by writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun) with art by Tyler Crook (B.P.R.D.). It released on December 15th and is available from Amazon for $12.32 at the time of this writing.
The thing that strikes me the most about this series is that intermix of story that I mentioned above. Bunn flits effortlessly between themes and tone like a featherweight boxer, at one moment channeling themes of adolescent angst, and later smart, witty horror. Emmy, the book’s main character, has the strength of Buffy, the romantic cluelessness of Tai, and the mean streak of Alex Forrest. Having grown up in the deep south, I find many of the undercurrents accurate. That notion of being able to take the law into your own hands; the notion that there is only your own personal moral compass and that that trumps any concept of codified law. Yeah, that’s textbook south. Especially given the deliberately unaddressed lack of fixing this story with an overtly communicated date, it’s period film setting allows for the flexibility needed to tell this tale with the lawlessness required to make it more than just another witch story.
Crook lays that tone on thick with his art. I feel like he does this thing with his creature art…there’s a lot of creature work that does not put all of the detail right on the nose with a ton of lines. It is, of course, very B.P.R.D-like, where the horror is almost driven by what he does not fill in. You get a sense of threat and evil from the relative size of a haint in comparison to the other characters, by the darkness of their overall color, by the angle of the eyes. And what really mucks with your head is in what he sometimes does not draw…what is left in the shadows and filled in by your own twisted mind.
Harrow County: Volume 1 - Countless Haints is the first trade collecting the comic that is my current favorite for Best New Comic of 2015. If you are a horror comic fan, this is required reading. If you do not believe me, just ask resident GWW Horror Expert Chris Pirri. I am pretty sure that he will agree. He’s so much as told me so directly. And that guy gets quoted on comic book covers all the time.