In Review: Harrow County #4

Creepy, horrific, and beautiful. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Something makes its way into a room. It has no flesh, but there’s plenty of meat on its bones. If the character isn’t disturbing enough, it’s making its way in via the ceiling. This is a point of view shot one would expect in a film. The illustration is frightening enough, but the coloring really sends this into the creepy zone with its horrific reds that match the colors of the wall. Perhaps this implies that something terrible has occurred in this residence? Open the book if you dare to find out. Another fantastic cover from interior artist Tyler Crook. Overall grade: A+

The story: Emmy’s in the woods with only a lantern to show her way. She’s upset because she’s been running all night “…running from her own pa…running from the folks who wanted her lynched as a witch…and running from the possibility that she deserved the killing.” If only she looked over her shoulder she’d see that she’s not alone in the woods. There’s a ten foot tall ebony beast that has the head of a bull, four orange vertical eyes, the snout of a dog, and is covered in hair. It mutters, “Not again.” When she senses the creature close by, she positions her lantern to see it better, but its struck down by the beast. “Ye don’t command me no more! Ye lef’ me out here! Ye promised ye’d come back…an’ I waited.” The creature frightens her enough to send her running again, with the beast saying something surprising at the top of Page 6. Cullen Bunn continues to wow with a creeper of a story that goes in a new direction. The character introduced on Page 7 begins the change and I was instantly on alert because of what Emmy’s gone through in previous issues. 10 begins a new form of torment for our poor protagonist. I really liked the story that begins on 11 since it reveals new information from a different perspective. The bottom of 14 made my stomach lurch, and it began to leap about on 15. 17 is violent and shows Emmy in a whole new light. I practically cheered aloud for what happens on 21. The conversation on 22 and 23 nicely addresses a big question mark. Bunn didn’t have to use this scene now, but I’m so glad he did because it would have festered in the back of my head. The next pages show how life has changed for some individuals, while the last two pages have me wondering what the heck is going on. This is fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The art: All visual aspects — the art, the colors, and the letters — are done by Tyler Crook. The book opens with a magnificent double-paged spread of the creature stalking Emmy. The lighting effects are cinematic, with Emmy clearly seen and only rough aspects of the monster visible. On the second page the creature utters two words and he has his own unique font, which gloriously sets it/him apart from every other individual that speaks, and the dialogue balloon is also wavy, looking like it was carved into the book. When the creature is seen in close-up on 3 it’s a great conglomeration of several beasts, and could have been a cliché friendly monster, had its speech not been so creepy looking. When the lantern is destroyed Crook inserts his own sounds into the art and it makes the actions seem stronger, especially in the second panel on 4. The beast’s eyes are bizarre and would garner unwelcome focus from those trying to understand what they’re looking at. The individual on Page 7 was like a Norman Rockwell character come to life. His smile and blush are wonderfully endearing. I love the second panel on 10 — what an outstanding way to show a person regaining consciousness! I also love the details in this new setting, complementing the Rockwell introduction, but also showing a level of age that nags one’s sense of danger. Pages 12, 13, and 15 are terrific flashbacks that show the horror that Hester Beck brought to Harrow County. One might think the most frightening panels on 17 are the first two, but I would argue it’s the final two on that page. This emotion has not been seen before, and though the text amplifies the emotion, words aren’t really needed for how that individual is feeling in the moment. When someone enters a setting on 19 the fallout is fantastic, culminating on 21 being outstanding. Page 26 introduces a completely new setting and it looks gorgeous. I’d love to see Crook do more here, but I have a feeling that character is going to be going rural really quickly. Every part of this book’s visuals are superior.

The essay: Cullen Bunn has another essay in this issue titled “Let’s Talk About the Farmhouse.” It has Bunn discussing the “creepy-crawlies” that took place while he lived in his childhood home in Newton Grove, North Carolina. He includes the incident of the man that crawled out from under his home, which he brought up at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, but there are other events that will have you realizing that Bunn was destined to become a storyteller. This is wonderful peek into a writer’s past as he recalls episodes from his youth that could be stories unto themselves. This is great. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Creepy, horrific, and beautiful. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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