Review by Ian Keogh
Harrow County is a superlative exercise in creeping horror, and if that’s what you enjoy and you like the look of Tyler Cook’s art, then you might as well dive straight in with this compilation of the first four trades. It’s that good, starting with the Omnibus can be recommended as worth the investment if you have the money.
As proved by a couple of guest slots by other artists, the synergy between Cullen Bunn and Crook is absolute in creating and sustaining a creepy atmosphere over a succession of largely self-contained small stories that gradually build toward something massive and apocalyptic.
The killing of a witch in the early 1900s sets in motion a series of events that pick up again in Despression-era rural USA as Emmy Crawford approaches her eighteenth birthday. She lives and works on her father’s farm, where she’s used to disturbing dreams and sensing the presence of otherwordly entities referred to throughout the community as haints. Emmy’s best friend Bernice accompanies her on the first stages of an eye-opening coming of age story repurposing much of her world. A horrific experience leads to the discovery that she’s believed to be the reincarnation of the killed witch, who was no misunderstood old lady, but a genuine threat now believed to have returned despite Emmy’s essentially good character.
The rural landscapes supplied by Crook in ink and watercolour resonate, and he’s equally inspired when it comes to the creation of the horrors that populate them designed to be different from standard horror monsters. Emmy transmits as the naive and innocent farm girl she is to begin with, but is also convincing later when she’s coming to terms with what she is. Carla Speed McNeil draws a single chapter introducing a relevant new character, but is a good artist at the wrong party here. Hannah Christensen’s contribution is lacking.
Bunn has obviously worked out an expansive back story from the start, but only reveals it gradually, establishing the tone via downhome narrative captions. By the conclusion of this volume, and there’s a second Omnibus to follow, Emmy has learned an awful lot about what life in Harrow County is really like, her place within that and how she relates to other supernatural entities. It’s always a dangerous discovery, and times it’s skin crawling.
If you want oversized to better experience the art, these stories are available as Harrow Country Volume One and Volume Two, while the basic versions are trades Countless Haints, Twice Told, Snake Doctor and Family Tree.