Harrow County: Family Tree

Harrow County: Family Tree
Harrow County Family Tree review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50670-141-7
  • Volume No.: 4
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781506701417
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

It’s worth noting up front that the entirety of Family Tree is illustrated by Tyler Crook, whose expressive ink and watercolour combination has defined Harrow County so exquisitely from the start. Snake Doctor suffered for his only having drawn half of it. Every page here looks gorgeous, even those featuring disturbing events, and whether written by Cullen Bunn or Crook’s own invention, little visual jokes have begun to appear, the successive background signs Emmy Crawford passes during a conversation being one.

Snake Doctor was also more experimental on Bunn’s part, moving the focus away from Emmy into other spooky areas, but the family referred to in the title are all hers, as she learns perhaps far more than she’d like about what her background is. Bunn’s way into this is chilling as it seems a wedge has been driven between Emmy and her friend Bernice, who’s now experiencing the supernatural herself, and has become fearful of what Emmy can do. The opening chapter’s horror lies as much in their fractured relationship as it does in rampaging scarecrows.

The way into Emmy’s education lies with the Psychopomp seen taunting the skinless boy in the previous volume. Bunn writes him well as a person who’s not easily trusted despite claiming honesty. Emmy knows she’s connected to the dead witch Hester Beck, yet now discovers Hester had family of her own, which opens up the world to Harrow County. Crook designs an unsettling bunch of new characters, very different looking for family, and further given differing personalities that transmit through Bunn’s dialogue.

Sandman readers might feel there’s a hint of the way Neil Gaiman after a while revealed him as one of an immortal family, but that’s only in the broadest sense. They believe in destiny and adhere to traditional rules that they feel ought to apply to Emmy also, and that initiates a great final chapter with a logical solution beautifully applied. Along the way there’s a further revelation.

Harrow County has been a horrific joy from the beginning, and this is a thrillingly creative broadening of its themes. The series continues in Abandoned.

These four chapters are also available in the oversized hardback Harrow County Volume Two, combined with following volume Family Ties, and in the first Harrow County Omnibus.