Catching up on ‘Harrow County’ (Books 1-3 Review)
Written by: Matt Molgaard
Harrow County follows young Emmy, whose home is seated on land that once hosted a brutal execution. The victim was a local woman who managed to heal the ill, but turned to dark magic in order to summon the supernatural strength to make such things possible. The sacrifice turned out to be too much for the locals to sit back and turn a blind eye to, so they bound her, stabbed her, shot her, hung her and finally burned her, moments before she swore to return and exact her own evil brand of vengeance.
Years later, looking at Emmy’s life, readers learn that her father was one of the men responsible for that heinous act of vigilante justice. And Emmy seems to have a strange ability to cure ill livestock with her bare hands.
Is Emmy the reincarnation of the old witch? Is she, unknowingly fated to slaughter a small community? And will the town learn this once she turns 18? Her birthday falls two days after this insanely engaging story begins, and our answers loom in the near distance.
The inaugural issue of Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s genius Harrow County lays out the background of Harrow County. The origin of the county’s troubles proves to be extremely unsettling, though not entirely foreign territory. This is a revenge story, and we’ve seen plenty of other pieces capitalize on very similar ideas. But Bunn’s writing is every bit as mind blowing as Crook’s artwork and we, the reader, are immediately consumed by the story.
The second book picks up immediately after the events of the first, but things are changing for Emmy and she’s suddenly becoming quite aware of it. Her connection to the old tree continues to burn bright, and she’s understanding that somehow she heals from wounds in lightning speed. She also discovers, and takes back to her home with her, a Haint (that’s basically a ghost in physical form), but where this new acquisition will lead us is a mystery, at this point.
Speaking of mysteries, a few are already seeing light shed upon them. We learn that Emmy came from that old tree, which means she is no doubt the second coming of the witch who was killed years ago. We also see that Emmy’s own father, along with the surviving members of the clan who executed the witch have gathered near the old tree. They’re plotting to kill Emmy, which she learns thanks to the Haint (we now have a better understanding of its purpose), and that discovery affords her just enough time to flee into the woods in order to save her skin.
In the woods Emmy encounters a friend of the family, Bernice, who makes a move to help save the girl. She leads her deeper into the woods where the two stumble upon a graveyard, apparently designed specifically for the town’s “undesirables”. Here, as the pages of book two dwindle away we see that more Haints are on the cusp of making their presence known in our world.
And finally, bringing everyone up to speed, we come to book three. This is where the stink hits the fan and leaves us all with a grimace etched across our faces. In the woods Emmy and Bernice continue their attempt to escape danger, but Emmy’s father catches up with them and whether it’s something he wants to do or not, he attempts to strangle the young girl. The Haint that she encountered previously in the tale suddenly bursts from the trees to save her, nearly killing her father in the process. But she calls a halt to that, sparing the man his life despite his acts. She decides it is time to find a new home, but as the final page of the book arrives we’re left to wonder if she’ll escape the mammoth monster that towers over her, gazing hungrily.
Cullen Bunn’s writing is absolutely spellbinding. It’s just about impossible to avoid being swept away in a wondrously smooth narrative. And Tyler Crook’s artwork only intensifies the effects of the story. His style is vintage and simple, but that keeps the aesthetic value of the book magnetic. We want to turn these pages. We want to see what’s coming next. And we want that because every image is clear, understandable and haunting, a perfect match to Bunn’s storytelling. Harrow County is – hands down – one of the greatest reads available today.
You can order the first three books right here.
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