Something's wrong with Emmy. That's the most basic version of the story we get in Harrow County #1, a new backwoods horror period piece from creators Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. Emmy's the seventeen year old farm girl who draws the audience into Harrow County's tale of a farming community cursed by a witch's dying breath.
This is not a review about plot specifics, however, because part of your enjoyment of Harrow County will come from discovering its moments of subtle terrors for yourself. Also, with issue 1 reflecting just a fraction of the story, a synopsis at this point would do no good. It's intended as an ongoing and this feels like just the tip of the overall set-up.
Could I have used more pages? Yes, but I'll be patient, because there's a beauty to Harrow County, both in its watercolored storytelling (unusually colorful for a horror tale of this sort) and how it bends familiar tropes into a strong enough hook to get you curious about what happens next.
Tyler Crook seems energized to be telling this story at square one. Panels are well-staged and the character acting is quite good. There's an immediate level of craft on display in the paints that will likely ensure Harrow County collections to move pretty well to the bookstore crowd. It's really accessibly attractive in such a way that I could see non-horror readers picking it up simply out of curiosity.
I haven't cracked the code on the recurring vaginal motif, a shape that appears at key moments of Emmy's brushes with horror. A hollowed tree, the eye of a malformed calf, and another moment of horror that I won't spoil here all recall the shape with a deliberation that is just not clear with a single issue. Time will tell how these genital visual cues tie into overall themes, or if it's an interesting subconscious "accident" on the part of Crook.
Bunn has spent the past year putting a high-profile spotlight on high profile villains like Sinestro and Magneto (and even Helheim isn't about a "nice" guy), so my assumption is that Harrow County will be another Bunn book that humanizes a villain, in this case witch and healer Hester Beck. Magneto has had some incredibly hair-raising moments of horror for a mainstream Marvel book, so I salivate over the fact that the worst (the best kind of worst) is yet to come for Harrow County. I know Bunn can shock me, and he can do it in stories where I give a damn about the characters (so rare for horror). Harrow County #1 holds a lot of promise.
The first issue also includes a one-page chiller titled "Baptism" by Bunn and artist Owen Gieni that seems to paint a broader picture of Harrow County as a place. Gieni's work is in line with the look that Crook establishes for this back.
Harrow County #1 arrives on May 13, 2015. Dark Horse has provided a look at Tyler Crook's art process below: