In Review: Harrow County #5

A wonderfully dark, magical world that makes one yearn for it, but leaves one wondering it they would survive the visit.

The cover: Standing before a lucky number of seven candles, Emmy and her sister are holding a kerosene lamp, surrounded by several smiling skulls, while behind them is the gigantic dweller in the forest that had words with Emmy last issue. If it’s possible to be both beautiful and disturbing with art, Tyler Crook has carved that niche for himself. The two women look great, the coloring perfect, but to surround them with the skulls and the creature is to take a step into weirdness that makes this an image you can’t help but be drawn into. Overall grade: A+

The story: This was a very interesting tale because it goes into territory that most horror books do not. This was the adjustment issue: Emmy knows who she is and what she’s capable of and now she and the townspeople of Harrow County have to adjust to it. Her relationship with her Pa has never been better, with the locals providing gifts (that could come with a price). Emmy would like to have a normal life, but even she realizes her life can never be, as aptly stated at the end of Page 6. The following page has writer Cullen Bunn taking her into a very unexpected position: helper. She’s called upon by someone to assist in a situation. That she goes is surprising, and even more so because of the number of people who know that she’s doing so. Usually, in most modern horrors, the protagonist does their business in secret, but not Emmy. This was a refreshing change of pace to read and how she deals with the situation upstairs absolutely riveting. Her solution on 11 is great and the reaction from the group fantastic. However, life for Emmy is not to be all peaches and cream, as the individual she encounters outside this establishment and what’s said between them holds the promise of future woes. Page 15 has her visiting a character from previous issues and, again, I enjoyed the change up. One would think that she would avoid this character at all costs, but instead seeks it out to speak with out. I was also pleased to see the return of Bernice and the three page conversation they had was as thrilling and emotional as Emmy speaking with supernatural creatures. The issue ends with the arrival of a character teased last issue and I can’t help but wonder where Bunn is taking this book. I’m more than ready to continue this ride. Overall grade: A+

The art: The opening two pages is a double-paged splash that’s reminiscent of classic Will Eisner, as it shows Emmy sitting under that tree looking at the clouds that form the title of this series. It’s creepy and cool. Tyler Crook is doing a fantastic job in creating the real world and the supernatural, and showing how they live together. The next two pages have Emmy going inside to talk with Pa and looks like something spun out of Norman Rockwell. The art is flawless and the coloring aged but traditional for the time and setting. Upstairs is when the fantastic is first revealed, as the empty skin of the haint lies on her bed. It could be horrific, but the way Crook illustrates the character it’s more of a fantastic nature. It exists in her world and is accepted. The bright colors of Emmy’s bed and her cheeks only make the visuals more unusual. The location where the next fantastic encounter occurs is something straight out of a classic Universal monsters movie. The individual she meets is something out of nightmare initially, until the story changes things. The lettering used for this character’s communication is perfect, and is neat to see against that of the haint’s. I love the green that appears on Page 12, foreshadowing a sick feeling, though the scene ends with chilling shadow work. The next page returns to the gorgeous art and coloring of the forest. This is a magical and beautiful location. Several hot characters make appearances (always happy to see them), before she meets with the one she seeks. The coloring and design of this character is amazing. I want to see more of this individual, and I’m hoping Crook gets to do this character unleashed. One would think that the least interesting pages in the book would involve Bernice and Emmy’s conversation, but it was excellent: every action and look made their dialogue resonate. Their visual joy became my own, and I love the rain falling. Art, colors, and letters are exceptional when done by Crook. Overall grade: A+

The Tales of Harrow County: Resuming this issue is the one page mini-story, written and drawn by Tyler Crook and colored by Ma’at Crook. “The Bat House” is a quick creeper that shows what happens when children dare another to go where they shouldn’t. Gross, creepy, and perfect. Overall grade: A+

The prose story: I live less than an hour from the setting of this story by Ma’at Crook, and it instantly got my attention. Heck, I’ve been to this theater several times. Suffice to say without spoiling, Crook tells of the real encounters with a ghost in a movie theater, and this is spurring me on to attend a showing of the upcoming Star Wars movie. I loved this! Overall grade: A+

The pinup: There’s a one page pinup by Cat Farris that’s really enjoyable. This has a very little Emmy finding the skin of a very young haint, and is examining it and its bloody trail. She’s next to a tree, where high up the fleshy body of the haint looks down upon here. I like the watercolor work on the background and how it gives a very calm and peaceful quality to the image, considering the disturbing nature of what’s occurring. I’m not usually a fan of the “Li’l” covers that show up as variants on books of late, but this works tremendously for me. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Chills and beauty that matches the best of Guillermo Del Toro. A wonderfully dark, magical world that makes one yearn for it, but leaves one wondering it they would survive the visit. 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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