With Harrow County, Cullen Bunn (Uncanny X-Men, The Sixth Gun) and Tyler Crook (B.P.R.D) really dug deep into the Southern Gothic style to produce a great horror comic. It speaks to how we change when becoming adults and are allowed to discover the dark secrets of the world on our own. It changes how we see others and ourselves. That’s why this issue seems like a small disappointment.
Emmy is told the tale of how Hester came to be. How Malachi tried to create something beautiful, but failed because his creation learned the wrong lessons from her maker. During the long walk through the woods at night, Emmy learns an important secret about herself in this story.
Emmy herself is very passive in this issue. She is there only to hear the story. She doesn’t even figure out the point of the story on her own. She has to be told.
It is often difficult to get the pace of stories within stories right. You don’t want secondary tale to get so involved that readers lose their place or interest in the main story. You also don’t want readers to become frustrated waiting to get back the main story. Bunn usually does a good job in getting that balance right in, but in Harrow County #18, the story itself seems like a placeholder. It is mainly feeding the readers information that they will need going forward.
One of the reasons that this issue feels like much of it is treading water is that it starts out with a meeting. It doesn’t matter if the meeting is a city zoning board or a group of dark powers that infest the county, meetings themselves are pretty boring. And since the point of this meeting is to introduce Hester to the other dark forces, it doesn’t really seem to add much beside a lot of creepy atmosphere. It isn’t until the end, when Bunn drops a series of reveals, that the story lurches into gear only to come to a sudden stop. This is a long set-up that will need to pay off soon.
Carla Speed McNeil (Finder) does a great job as the guest artist in this issue. Her watercolors are her own yet mesh well with Crook’s style. It feels like both a fairy tale and a horror story in the best possible way. Her art is equally charming and gruesome as the story gets darker toward the end. Even the woods seem somehow both inviting and dangerous. McNeil also shows how Hester is at peace with herself when she is being destructive.
The problem with this issue is that it can’t stand on its own. It is solely an interstitial chapter in the ongoing tale that is Harrow County. As part of a larger story of Emmy coming to learn more about herself and the world around her it is fine.
- Writer: Cullen Bunn
- Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
- Cover Artist:Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse