I’ve been reading Harrow County since the second story arc, and not once has Cullen Bunn broken the reality for a good scare. Not once has he cheapened the world by breaking the rules set forth. That’s not what kind of horror this is. The horror Bunn is dealing with is much deeper and darker than that. I think even profound. Yes, it has the witches, the monsters hiding in the dark, the struggles that take place at the ledge of life and death, but we’re talking about a character’s soul here. The soul of Emmy: a young woman born of evil, the offspring (of sorts) of a witch, and imbued with the power to direct the fate of others – humans and haints (those monsters in the shadows) alike.
I have no idea if Emmy’s story is to be tragic, bittersweet, or heroic, but with every new revelation, every new turn of the screw, her resolve is tested, and with the turn in Issue #21, I’m starting to feel the pressure mount. The moral decisions Emmy will have to make, I feel, are going to be tough situations to wiggle out of. Choices will have to be made. Will she have to choose one family over another? I can only feel that the decision won’t be easy.
You see, Emmy is protector of the haints and of the humans. She has chosen to keep the peace. Now, there is a hunter killing haints, a hunter hired by the humans. That’s the kickoff of this story arc. Bunn takes his time continuing to draws lines between what it means to be human and what it means to be haint, and what it means to live in the light and dark. One thing is, both can feel fear. He builds anticipation by letting the story settle, like slowly walking up a staircase and with each step you feel the tension grow ever so slightly, but he’s painted such a rich canvas at this point that part of what also works is that he continues to weave in these other story threads. His mastery of juggling potential threats over the course of story arcs and using each threat to put Emmy in the middle of new and difficult choices show Bunn to be the true craftsman that he is.
Issue #21 isn’t a bad place to jump in if you haven’t been reading. You may not understand some of the relationships and situations, but the general themes and conflict presented are easily understandable. While Bunn delves into deeper psychological territories, he knows the universal language of great storytelling. Start microscopic and go macro.