Harrow County: Snake Doctor

Harrow County: Snake Doctor
Harrow County Snake Doctor review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50670-0717
  • Volume No.: 3
  • Release date: 2016
  • UPC: 9781506700717
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Under any other circumstances art by Carla Speed McNeil would be welcome, but over the previous two volumes Tyler Crook has defined Emmy Crawford’s world with a mixture of picturesque beauty and dark horror, that any change is instantly disturbing. McNeil is good, but different. Her creatures don’t skulk in the darkness, and they’re seen up close, which makes for unpleasant visuals as the bulk of her story concerns the skinless boy. However, as creepy as the story is, McNeil just doesn’t create the same atmosphere as Crook, who thankfully draws the two chapter title story.

To create the spooky atmosphere of Harrow County Cullen Bunn is inclined to throw in random disturbing connections in passing. Perhaps he’d always intended to continue with the theme of dragonflies indicating the presence of snakes, and perhaps not, but why waste a good idea? It sets the title story in motion, one that beautifully encapsulates a small 1930s community and their fears. It also demonstrates the series title, as Emmy, leading character over the previous two books, is barely seen during the first three chapters. For the title story her friend Bernice stars as an observer discovering what’s possibly a second witch in the area.

Crook’s poised ink and watercolour pages charm on a story not what it first appears to be. Think about it too hard and that someone could live in isolation outside the same town for decades without people knowing their true nature doesn’t ring exactly true. However, anything supernatural takes some faith, and if that’s what it takes to bring Bernice’s quest to life, it’s only a small fudge. What makes Bernice’s long night even more terrifying is that snakes are a real world threat, not so easily dismissed. It’s spooky, and it’s frightening.

Hannah Christensen’s art for the final story doesn’t cut the mustard. Whereas McNeil’s was a matter of the style not matching expectation, Christensen has a fair way to develop. Her sense of scale is faulty, the people are static, and too many have peculiar expressions. She’s best when the supernatural shenanigans break loose and distract from the remainder. Her art features on a tale of a haunted house with a difference, and with a surprise ending for readers of previous volumes.

There are features that can adapt to any amount of artistic approaches, such as Batman or Judge Dredd, but on the basis of these first steps away from Crook drawing everything perhaps Harrow County isn’t among them. This content is also available in the oversized hardback Harrow County Volume Two, combined with following volume Family Tree, and in the first Harrow County Omnibus.