COMIC REVIEW: Harrow County Volume 2

Last time in Harrow County, young Emmy learned of the unique nature of her heritage, and how it gave her no small sway over the seemingly numberless population of nearby spirits, or “haints” to use the local term. But now she knows she has power, the question becomes: how should she wield it?

The early indications here are encouraging. Emmy is insistent that the supernatural world should run in parallel to the mundane. It is neither something to be ignored, nor attacked. Every haint needs to be taken on its own terms, just like every person. Not everyone is happy with this approach, of course; to some, witchcraft means a witch, and a witch always means evil. I mentioned in my last review that the success of the title depends on how well the story deals with the idea that Emmy’s powers are simultaneously morally suspect and genetically inherited. These are, after all, two concepts that can cause untold damage when linked in people’s minds.  Harrow County runs on the right side of this line, but still finds a way to explore the nature/nurture questions Emmy’s situation raises. I won’t say any more so as to avoid spoilers, but the volume’s cover should give you more than a few clues.

Obviously tales about whether supernatural abilities are inherently evil or simply a handy tool for evil to grasp have been around forever. But Bunn and Crook continue to make the old feel new again with their use of tone and atmosphere. The slow pace, sparse dialogue and lush watercolours make this feel less like a ghost story, and more like the dream of a ghost story you half-remember from childhood. I say dream, but we’re dipping into darker territory now, as Emmy learns not every spirit in the county is equally friendly.  Just like people, the undead inhabitants of the area exist on a spectrum, and there’s plenty of pleasure to be had in seeing the increasing range of ghosts, revenants, haunts and spectres the creators have come up with. Some are more gruesome than what was on offer in the first volume, and this combined with a quite delicious piece of body horror partway through the arc puts us on notice that this strange, melancholy dream might be tipping inexorably into nightmare.

It all adds up to a triumph of mood, another gorgeous slice of faded Americana. It’s not quite perfect – there’s some pacing problems in particular, with the ending being far too abrupt, though not without weight – but this volume takes the strengths of its predecessor and builds on them very well. The shadows are longer, but there is still plenty of sweetness too, and even the occasional joke. Harrow County remains a strange but beautiful place in which to while away your time.

 

Title: Harrow County

Publisher: Dark Horse

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Ric Crossman

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