In Review: Harrow County #29

One of the best horror series ever created. Pick it up and try not to look away.

The cover: Hester Beck’s eye is given an extreme close-up after she’s just returned to the living, or whatever it is that her unholy body has done. Tyler Crook has made this a cover one cannot help but stare at for this frightening eye. The putrid green skin certainly tells the reader that all is not well with this person. The stands of black hair that are falling before her face make this extra nasty. This is a terrific example of how one image can create apprehension. Overall grade: A

The story: Cullen Bunn’s tale opens with Emmy walking through the woods carrying the bloody remains of her friend the haint. She’s bringing what’s left of the creature back to where she first met it. She knows the haint didn’t like this place but “Dust to dust.” The massive tangle of weeds begin to pull back, revealing a house. A woman’s voice comes from this home. “Em? Emmett?” What happens next is creepy and sweet. Those two words sum up what this series has constantly been: creepy as all hell, yet with stunning moments of sweetness. After this touching scene, Bunn moves to the Meeting Lounge “said to appear only ever ten years for a conclave…Or during times of great auspice or tumult. But powerful beings could call the place from the either at their whim.” It’s Hester who’s making her way inside to meet with family members and things are not going to go well. After several frightening pages the story moves to Emmy still trying to come to grips with the horrific action she took against Kammi. The story then turns to downtown as Hester walks the main street, pondering what to do first. She encounters a surprising character who tries to keep her from her vengeance, but the witch will not be deterred. Her final words are absolutely horrific. And that’s saying something, considering what this book has done for the last few issues. Wow. This is a page turner. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first two pages are a double-page splash that shows Emmy making her way through the forest holding something grisly. Around the character, made out of weeds, the title of this series is formed. This is always an incredible way for Tyler Crook to begin each issue and I love it. Crook also provides the book’s colors and he’s made the two words lighter in colors that the other weeds so they stand out. As cool as this is, it’s impossible not to focus on the crimson she’s cradling and that’s around her mouth. Rather than look frightened at what she’s doing, Crook has Emmy look tired in her first close-up on 3. The reveal on 5 is great, as is the sense of motion created in the bottom three panels. These panels create a wonderful lead in for the true reveal on 6, with the momentary hesitation and head turn tear inducing. This entire page shows how Crook can create the magical and beautiful in this series. This reminder of the what can be beautiful in Harrow County is necessary given whom the story focuses on next. Hester’s soiled clothes and dirty, unkempt hair in her face are a contrast to the structure she’s entering and pulling in to her dirty hand on the white front door on page 8 is great way to foreshadow that this clean structure is about to be sullied. The family members all have different reactions to Hester’s arrival, with the most unsurprising reaction on 10’s second panel which is perfect for that character. There’s a nonverbal reaction by a character in the second panel on 12 that sets up a later scene in this issue. The action on 13 is shocking and reinforced strongly by the graphic fallout at the bottom of the page and on 14; I was impressed that a reaction was given to the character in the third panel on 14 because this individual is often not shown. Given the level of violence, the smile that ends 14 is unsettling. The change to the setting is straight out of a horror movie and it works tremendously. The final panel on 16 is deliriously dark. 17 moves to another character who visually is trying to come to grips with past actions and it’s fantastic. The character who arrives on 21 continues to be an exceptionally strong looking character. The visuals on this book — on this series — are the stuff of legends and nightmares. Utter brilliance. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Tyler Crook is also the book’s letterer, creating dialogue and narration, sounds, Hester’s unique speech, whispers, and the character from Page 21’s unique speech. I prefer to see dialogue and narration done in different fonts, rather than differentiated by their dialogue balloons and colors, as is done here, but what’s done is done. I do like Hester and the other character’s unique speech, which separates them from the other characters, making them wholly otherworldly. The sounds are also great, with YEEEEAARGH! being the one sound that’s going to be tough to ever forget. Whispers are employed twice: once for a character who’s speaking aloud and for the voices another hears. Both are effective and easily read, and undeniably pull the reader closer to the book. Overall grade: A-

“Church Camp, Broken Pinky-Toe, and Floating Coffins”: Ma’at Crook spins a tale out of the three seemingly unrelated elements in the title that come full circle. I won’t spoil it, but it is a definite winner. The ending of the tale within the tale isn’t ever in doubt, but Crook’s personal ending to the overall tale is wonderful. Overall grade: A+

“Tales of Harrow County”: Tyler Crook’s one pagers have been solid creepers, with supernatural twists that are solid shockers. This one does something very different, with the final panel’s narration being as shocking and as strong as Ma’at’s. Another winner. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A violent climax is coming closer as Hester speaks with family members. This story is sweet and scary, with visuals that will have you tearing up at the beauty and unable to look away at the horrors in Harrow County. This is one of the best horror series ever created. Pick this up and try not to look away. Overall grade: A+

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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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