Review by Ian Keogh
Volume One, considered the first Library Edition inside, is an oversized hardcover presentation of the first two Harrow County trades Countless Haints and Twice Told. They combine for a terrifying coming of age sequence for Emmy Crawford, a 1930s farm girl just before her eighteenth birthday when first seen. She wants to leave her father’s remote farm and see the world, something he’s not so keen on. What he knows that Emmy doesn’t is that just before she was born he and other townsfolk killed a witch. This was no mistake. Hester Beck was a genuine witch who controlled beasts and committed atrocities, and as she died she swore she’d return. The question becomes whether or not she’s reincarnated as Emmy.
Emmy is certainly attuned to the supernatural, and when everything goes to pot she discovers she’s able to command the creatures in the surrounding woodland. As created by Cullen Bunn and drawn by Tyler Crook there’s a natural innocence about Emmy, befitting someone who’s had an isolated life with barely any education, and her good nature makes her a sympathetic character from the start. This is even more the case when she’s contrasted by her mirror image in the second story.
Both creators contribute to the atmosphere. In Bunn’s case it’s not only the plot, but the casual, friendly narration, as if a tale is being told around the campfire. Crook’s combination of ink and watercolours is relatively scarcely used in comics, and never to his high standards. He creates a lush rural environment that anyone would want to explore, and is phenomenally imaginative when it comes to the festering creatures it’s home to. These aren’t your standard horror creations, but genuinely disturbing nightmares. If this is what Emmy dreams about at the start, no wonder she has fears. As an indication of what’s within, Emmy takes to carrying about the empty skin of a boy in her bag, while the body it comes from terrorises all it encounters.
The first four chapters are a horrific awakening, but also an opportunity for the sins of the past to be laid to rest, and the second is an object lesson in succumbing to base desire. Both are loaded with atmosphere, and the promise of much worse to come. Find that in Volume Two. Alternatively, it’s combined with this as the first Harrow County Omnibus.