"Harrow County #22" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Tyler Crook
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on April 12th, 2017
As Emmy is out in the woods trying to figure out who's been hunting the haints (what they call monsters), her old friend Bernice is on a hunt of her own. Their paths cross and decide to go together, albeit with two very different methods. Although Emmy has a stigma about her and possesses incredible abilities, she's the kinder of the pair, looking for a way for all creatures to live together peacefully. Bernice is more black-and-white about it. There are people and there are haints. One has a right to exist and the other doesn't.
This issue of Harrow County works on several different levels. It's an intriguing tale of two young women out in the woods at night looking for monsters. It's also a fantastic debate about destiny and stereotypes. Just because some of these haints have done horrible things doesn't mean that they will all act the same way. Even if they did do something like kill some livestock or eat a dog, maybe there was a reason for that. Who says they can't change? This works on the flip side too, as Bernice has a lot of pressure from Old Lady Lovey, an elderly woman who sees herself as the protector of Harrow County and to her, that means killing haints.
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Writer Cullen Bunn weaves this message through the story organically. It doesn't feel forced and it still comes through very well. You don't need a “The More You Know” banner to sweep across the page for you to understand what this book can say about some of the events in the news today.
This message is perfectly balanced with the scares. Artist Tyler Crook never lets you forget that this is a horror comic. Whether it's the small creatures following Emmy protectively, the talking boy's skin Emmy carries in her satchel, or the terrifying keyhole ghost, there is plenty to send a shiver up your spine. That last one is definitely up there as a highlight of the book. Its very appearance is coated in red, like it's swimming through an ether of blood. At first, you might think it's a young boy, but then it turns and bears its razor sharp teeth and reveals its dark, empty eyes.
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Although that's definitely up there in terror, the scariest part of this issue came in a single panel. It doesn't actually feature anything overtly spooky at first. You can actually see this shot on the back of the book too. It's a shot of an infant's room with a crib and an open window. There is a solitary dialogue box that serves as the perfect caption. It doesn't tell you exactly what happened. Instead, it implies something far more sinister. When I read that section, my jaw dropped. It is a perfect example of how the writer and artist can work together to enhance the story. If you just had the text or the image, they would be completely different. Together, they are incredibly disturbing.
Harrow County is a pitch perfect horror comic. Everything about it just clicks between the art, the colors, the writing, the dialogue, the characters. While on the surface, you have two young women walking through the creepy woods at night, that's the least scary thing about the book. It delivers terror on multiple levels and leaves you begging for more.