‘Harrow County #23:’ Advance Comic Book Review

A balloon can be filled with only so much air before it pops. A screw can only be tightened into a board so far before the board splinters. I feel like with every issue of Harrow County, Cullen Bunn manages to blow a little more air into the ever-tightening skin of the balloon, to turn the screw just a little more into the piece of wood that’s barely managing to stay whole. The tension is building, the forces are gathering, the chess pieces are being moved into position, and soon the pieces are going to have to be sacrificed. You can feel it. The problem for me as a reader is - and it’s not so much a problem when it’s such excellent writing - that I care about these characters who will have to make decisions they may not like.

Here’s where we are. Emmy is the daughter of a not-so-great witch. She watches over Harrow County, the people, and the haints (monsters, goblins, demons, etc). She tries to keep balance between the two, but to her friend Bernice, Emmy is favoring the haints more than she should. While Emmy has been doing her best, Bernice befriended a woman who has the power to destroy the haints, and Bernice began training with her to do the same. Now, with every twist and turn, their friendship fractures and both of their hands seem to be forced by other enemies into conflict.

Every page of every issue builds the tension of that conflict. This is one of those stories that you don’t want to have end, because you know something terrible may happen when it gets there.

Tyler Crook’s watercolor art remains exactly what this book needs. Without it, I don’t know if the horrors of Harrow County would be as fairy tale frightening as they are. It’s like all the nightmares one might’ve had as a kid of gremlins, fairies, bulls, and skinless humans. (Yes, I had strange nightmares.).  He breathes the imagination of a child into this world, and it allows it to resonate that much more, because we’re reminded of what it is like to feel vulnerable. I’m reminded of what it feels like to sit in my grandparents' living room with my cousins or sibling, flashlight glowing and telling stories of creatures that live in the shadows in the woods or the basement - only Harrow County is also dealing with complicated moral dilemmas. You should give this book a try if you have not already.

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