In Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County, a storm has been brewing – slowly building over the course of the last year. It’s a showdown between friends – friends, I might add, with otherworldly powers that, at times, feel like magic straight out of the bayou or from around a cauldron. If you’re thinking curses, blood magic, humans created from soil – you’re not far off. Emmy is actually the offspring of the corpse of a witch, buried under the tree from which she died upon. Since she’s come of age, she has become the guardian of the haints (spirits, ghouls, what have you) of the woods and humans alike. Her friend Bernice, on the other hand, was taught by someone who delved in the dark arts who also protected the woods near Harrow County. Unfortunately, Bernice’s mentor recently died, and her course has been directed by another, slowly but surely leading to this issue.
Often times, teams or superheroes will be forced to duke it out and rarely are there long-lasting consequences. These are stories I’ve grown particularly weary of. What has made this showdown both anticipated and dreaded for me is that there are real-world consequences in this story, and both of these characters are doing the best they know with what knowledge they have. They both believe that they are doing good, watching out for the best interests of the things they care about. I’ve written continuously that there will come a time in which Emmy will be tested/tempted use her power in a way that will be for the wrong reasons. This issue is that first test/temptation.
Does the story succeed? Does the anticipation pay off? To some degree. Sometimes in stories, characters get backed into such a corner that there is no logical way for them to get out, if you’re staying true to the characters. In that Bunn succeeds, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was a punch pulled in this regard.
Aside from that particular moment, the issue was particularly intense and accomplishes what it intended to a degree greater than most other comics. Horror isn’t blood and guts to me, but watching as friends hurt each other, watching as people with a moral code break that code. The psychology of the characters creates the horror for me. This is what makes Harrow County not only one of the best horror comics out there, but also one of the best comics.