Harrow County: Countless Haints

February 28, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

haintsHarrow County: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook

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I stumbled across this comic browsing IO9 one day, where they were featuring the entire first issue for everyone to read. I thought that the story was intriguing and disturbing, and highly atmospheric, so I added it to my mental list of comics to check out. The problem is, my mental list is ethereal, enough so that when it comes time to find a title at a bookstore, my mind returns an empty data set. Luckily, every so often it finds a hit, like today when I was killing time at the local comic shop.

Harrow County tells the tale of Emmy, a young farmer’s daughter who suffers from bad dreams and has odd abilities that become more and more prominent as she nears eighteen. It turns out that townspeople where Emmy lives once murdered a witch, who cursed them and told them she would be back. All signs point to Emmy being the witch, reincarnated, and her discovery and association with a being of skin (see the cover image above for reference) reinforce that conclusion. So the townspeople set out to murder Emmy.

A lot happens in this first collection, which comprises just the first four issues of the series. There’s a lot of history and exposition, a lot of reveal, a significant amount of characterization, and it comes to a close before the end of the volume. So much happens that it feels rushed in places. Emmy has no idea that she could be a witch until she finds out through the townspeople, and within just a few hours, she accepts and makes peace with it. I could see at least one full issue devoted to her struggle with accepting such a huge revelation, but it seemed to happen in just a few pages. Granted, the authors present Emmy as a no-nonsense sort of person, so maybe she’s not the kind to dwell on such things. Plus, one you start toting around an animated person who’s nothing but skin, doubt probably tends to flee from one’s mind.

The story lives up to its potential, though, in plot, character, and atmosphere. There’s some truly disturbing imagery here, without it being too graphic. Crook captures the right amount of subtlety with his art, making it more suggestive than over-the-top. There’s some bonus material at the end of the volume where he writes about developing the look of the characters, and it provides some background into how he approached the story. It’s fascinating stuff, but then again, I always like to see how creators create.

It’s difficult to judge a series just by its initial few issues, but Harrow County does a good job of setting the stage for what’s to come. It could have been dominated by exposition, but instead there’s a complete plot to the arc, touching on the main points of the story to come. While it does move a bit more quickly than I would have liked, it impressed me enough that I’ll have this on my to-read list for a while.

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