Harrow County is what might be considered by H.P. Lovecraft (the great master of the genre) as “weird fiction.” With its mix of supernatural magic and the unknown of both Emmy’s past and future, the book strikes at something primal. It creates an unease in the reader that’s hard to shake. When I read the first issue, the lights in my apartment flickered for the first time ever and for the rest of the night, it felt like something was out there waiting to strike. Even now, when I read an issue on a subway crowded with people, it feels like evil is lurking just out of sight.
That’s certainly true of our hero Emmy’s world. The woods around her farmhouse clearly hide some secret (about her, about magic, about things beyond our imagination), but she at least has a word to define them, to make them more real and less frightening through identification. She calls them “haints,” what writer Cullen Bunn defines in the first issue as, “the ghosts and ghouls that lurk in lonely, forgotten and unwelcoming places.” And Harrow County is that kind of place.
While Bunn (typically a writer greedy with his mythology) hasn’t revealed much yet, we know enough to guess that Emmy will have to fight hard to remain the kind girl we met in the first issue. Issue #3 especially suggests that the nature of evil, and whether it’s inherent, is going to be a big part of Emmy’s story. Not to spoil exactly what happens, but Emmy is forced to confront one of the most fundamental fears of all: the loss of a parent’s love. If there was any doubt that this Southern Gothic comic wouldn’t be afraid to take things in gruesome directions (this is a comic where a witch gets hanged on the first page of Issue #1, remember), this issue removes all doubt.
However, for as strong as Bunn’s storytelling is, it’s Tyler Crook’s art that sets the mood. Crooks still prefers the more tactile mediums–ink and watercolors–to digital drawing and it gives the book an earthy feel. His rounded figures recall Colombian painter Fernando Botero, but with more shadow and dirt thrown in for realism. Harrow County is not for the faint of heart, but what’s to fear, really? It’s just a comic book, right?
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.