Review by Ian Keogh
In the early 20th century the residents of Harrow County hung a witch. This wasn’t the usual superstitious mob vilifying an unfortunate woman, but a cut and dried case, the sample art showing some of the activities Hester Beck got up to. Killing her was no easy task, and as she died she laid a curse.
1930s Harrow County resident Emmy Crawford is haunted by dreams of the supernatural and aware of ghostly presences, which she refers to as haints, while her father’s farm seems cursed by a succession of animals being either stillborn or on the verge of death. She’s almost eighteen and keen to stretch her horizons, but her father’s equally sure she should stay in the vicinity, Cullen Bunn letting on to readers that he knows things he’s not told Emmy.
Bunn’s vision is brought to startling life by Tyler Crook’s dextrous art. He puts a lot of work into establishing the farm and its woodland surroundings, makes Emmy a suitably naive looking personality in keeping with her isolated life, and the distinctive use of watercolours creates exactly the right tone.
The opening chapter is continual foreboding, but the strangeness really kicks in with the second chapter, in which Emmy finds a talking skin suit, learns of a horrific local practice and has to leave the farm in a hurry. It’s the beginning of a startling journey that leaves her almost isolated and broadens her horizons as to what may or may not be real. Her only comfort is that best friend Bernice Anderson is alongside her for much of what she experiences. As Countless Haints makes way for Twice Told Emmy’s life has changed irrevocably.
That sounds just like the standard comic hyperbole, but it’s far more relevant to Harrow County than mere promo puff. Emmy has a past and a destiny and Countless Haints does more than enough to ensure we’ll be along for the journey, although it can also be read as a neat single story about coming of age in horrific circumstances.
Harrow County is an example of a quality series receiving the acclaim it’s due, so it’s available in formats beyond this opening trade. The first Library Edition is an oversized hardcover pairing Countless Haints with Twice Told, and the Omnibus edition combines them both with later volumes.