The Horror Honeys: Guest Comics Honey Review ~ HARROW COUNTY

Guest Comics Honey Review ~ HARROW COUNTY

A Guest Comics Honey Review by Allison

Harrow County #1

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Tyler Crook, Owen Gieni (art for "Tales of Harrow County")
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Released: May 2015

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Art: 5/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Overall: 4 spooky trees out of 5!

Emmy always knew that the deep, dark woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts, goblins, and zombies. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.
This "southern gothic fairy tale" is inspired by regional tales from writer Cullen Bunn's childhood. While drawing from stories about creatures that go bump in the night, at its core, this is a coming-of-age narrative about a young woman trying to forge an identity for herself.

One of my biggest concerns in a comic with dialogue this idiosyncratic is that it will feel forced and awkward, but that isn't at all the case here. The regional dialect sounds natural and lived-in, and the quote from Bunn's uncle about "haints" adds some veracity to the comic, and a sense that this is a very personal story for its writer.

The story opens with a witch being hanged; this is no wrongfully-accused woman, it's clear that she was the real deal. Years later, Emmy lives on the farm where this witch died, and has nightmares about the tree where it happened. What's the tie between Emmy and Hester Beck, the dead witch? And what is her father afraid she might learn? 
This first issue mainly functions as set up, and it ends just at the right moment (on a great little gross-out moment). It's not unsatisfying, but it leaves you wanting to come back for the next issue.

Emmy is a sweet and likeable protagonist, even she seems a bit sheltered and naive for her age. She's at the age where she has to begin thinking about leaving her father's farm, and that's enough to worry her before spooky things start happening. The imagery at the end of the issue isn't particular subtle in evoking her blossoming womanhood - she crawls into a thorny, blood-filled tunnel. She also cuts herself, signalling that the journey ahead of her isn't about to be an easy one (if all the portenting and the evil tree in her backyard weren't clear enough). The other characters we meet, notably Emmy's father and friend Bernice, feel authentic, but the story is light on their back stories and motivation.

Tyler Crook's watercolour art is jaw-dropping, a starkly realistic style grounding the book's supernatural elements. The naturalism is offset by brilliant, nearly expressionistic colours, and the watercolour adds a satisfying texture you don't see often in comics. His characters look like real, actual people, unlike the pin-up models in superhero books. Yet Emmy and her father are a bit washed-out and pale, which only adds to the eeriness of the book. His vivid colour palette is formed of autumn colours, perfect for the farm's harvest, but also for the themes of change and harder times to come. The ripe yellows and oranges take on a new tone when they change from wheat fields to the fire that burned a witch on Emmy's land. The art is worth the price of admission alone.

This comic starts off slow, but it shows signs of good things to come. The story is pervaded by a sense of unease, the sense that something ain't quite right, and if you're like me and appreciate a dose of quiet, creeping horror, this is a comic to watch out for.



Tyler Crook

Guest Comics Honey Allison is a writer, comics editor, and dog enthusiast based in Toronto.  You can find her on Twitter.