In Review: Harrow County #11

Southern magic and horror at its finest.

The cover: A water moccasin has been cornered and hisses a warning at those who have discovered it. However, take a closer look at what artist Tyler Crook has done to this frightening reptile, especially its tongue. That’s a flame of death escaping from the serpent’s mouth and not a fleshy organ. This slight tweaking of the image gives the illustration a disturbing quality that something’s off with this animal, and that’s a nicely subtle introduction to the horrors that await in Harrow County. Overall grade: A

The story: “Snakes…Maybe hundreds of them…All of them slithering around inside mason jars.” How’s that for a creepy introduction from Cullen Bunn to this issue? The jars are in Lady Lovey’s cellar, where the old witch has Uncle Early on the floor, blood spilling out of the right side of his head. She’s dropped a jar and is wrestling for control of one of the venomous creatures. This struggle is watched by Bernice and Clinton, Early’s nephew. Bernice tells Clinton that they should go home to get some help, but as they turn a possum frightens Clinton, who screams. This causes Lovey to lose her focus and the snake strikes at her wrist. The two children run into the forest pursued by creatures that might be the witch’s familiars. Readers will be thinking exactly what Bernice says on Page 10 and then receive the exact same shock with the reveal on 11. Bunn turns all assumptions upside down in this issue as to what Lovey is doing and then has Bernice participating in something that was the farthest thing from her mind. It was neat to see that Bernice has an aptitude for what she has to do, which foreshadows that there might be more to her past than has been revealed. The past is revealed for one character on 14 – 16 and its another creeper from Harrow’s days gone by. Also neat to see was what Bernice uses to go on her quest; using such an object puts magic into the ordinary, or the seemingly ordinary, which might spark readers to consider all the things hidden in plain sight around them.  The ending of this issue isn’t surprising, given the joy the lead feels at what she’s accomplished, but once this corner is turned there will be no going back. This leaves me feeling fearful. The final page of the book is a Tales of Harrow County story by Tyler Crook. This is titled “Haint Train” and it involves a locomotive that doesn’t stop for people. This is a good old fashioned creeper that would be used to keep children from participating in a dangerous activity, and it ends with a terrific shock. Very enjoyable. Overall grade: A

The art: The opening double-paged splash of this issue shows several mason jars containing orange eyed snakes writhing about. Having them placed on shelves like any pickled foodstuffs is disturbing, and when accompanied with Bunn’s text it will give any reader the chills. The orange eyes Tyler Crook gives his deadly serpents propels them into the supernatural realm, giving them a demonic quality. The coloring on the shelves is also something that a reader should look at on this opening; it has a terrific aged look with its mottled browns and tans, making it appear that the rot on it could make it crumble in an instant. Page 3 ups the tension with each panel: an escaped snake, a reflection in a jar, Bernice’s wide eyes, bloody Early, the witch’s determination, and the captured serpent. Every one of these images increases the horror of the situation. Page 4 then pulls back from the basement to show the exterior of the witch’s home. This is a beautiful structure looking as though it could be found anywhere in the back woods and the colors on it are just as exemplary. Page 5 has two dramatic moments that create some good shocks and they’re highlighted with terrific use of reds. This story is set at night and within in the witch’s cabin, so the colors are dark, however, when the tale begins to turn, starting with the flashback, the colors brighten, showing the Harrow County the characters want before it was tainted by evil. I like how Lovey has on the only bright dress in the flashback, making her the focus whenever she’s shown. The lettering is also done by Crook and his sounds are equally good, with standouts being the two very different noises on Pages 19 and 20. There are also two illustrations in the essay by Ma’at Crook. They are of a infamous pirate and it has me hoping that he or others of his ilk will appear in the main story. The Tales of Harrow County is illustrated by Kate Leth, who brings her magic to this book in an impressive style. The slight change from panel two and five is spooky, while the final panel had me screaming. Outstanding. Overall grades: A

The essay: “Fear and Love of the Devil Himself” is by Ma’at Crook. It’s a two page essay on an infamous historical character who made his presence known in North Carolina. It’s a ghastly tale that I’ve heard and read about several times and Crook tells it with panache. This isn’t the typical tale of spirits or things that appear when they shouldn’t that’s graced this book before; instead, it’s on the facts of one person who carved out some real horrors on the locals. It was fun to read, but didn’t have the otherworldiness that I’ve come to expect in an essay in this series. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Southern magic and horror at its finest. The horrors can be fought if one has the resolve. Recommended. 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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