Harrow County #22
Released by: Dark Horse Comics
Released on: April 12th, 2017.
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by: Tyler Crook
Purchase From Amazon
Bernice sits in old Lady Lovey’s humble home as the crone lectures her about the evils of the haints in the area. Bernice had defended Emmy to the old woman in the past, but this time it’s a bit different. Bernice tells Lovey that Emmy’s different, she’s not like the woman Lovey squared off against – Hester – but Lovey makes her promise that she’ll protect all of Harrow County from the haints. And if that means one day having to stand against Emmy, so be it.
Later that night when Bernice finds Emmy out in the woods the conversation is tense. Bernice accuses her of forgetting about the people she had promised to help and tells her that basically she’s picking up her slack. She tells her that people in town aren’t coming to her for help anymore because they’re scared of the haints that Emmy seems to be getting closer to every day. Emmy insists they are harmless but Bernice tells her that the haints she knows about aren’t the only ones around.
The two girls go for a walk at Bernice’s insistence, where she tells Emmy of a bird like thing that has been active in the area that was a ruthless hunter, feeding on pets and livestock. No one told Emmy about this, but they did tell Bernice, who intends to do something about it. Bernice tells her of other things that the haints have done, how a goblin took three of her cousin’s fingers, how Priscilla and the others will eventually turn nasty. Bernice leads her further into the woods towards an old cabin. The skin in Emmy’s handbag protests as does Priscilla, but she heads in with Bernice to what first seems to just be an empty old house. When Bernice insists Emmy look through a specific keyhole, however, she then sees things differently – there’s a ‘keyhole ghost’ inside, a spirit that’s been trapped in there so long that the only way to see it is to peer through the keyhole of the door it can’t get past.
The only way to see what the ghost wants is to look through the keyhole from the opposite side. Bernice doesn’t need to do this, Lovey told her this ghost was dangerous and that’s good enough for her. Emmy, however, takes a look and is horrified by what she sees. She agrees to help Bernice put a stop to the ghost’s activity, but it won’t be easy.
Building wonderfully off of over twenty-issues of continuity, Bunn’s writing keeps getting more interesting and Harrow County a more immersive reading experience. As we’ve been able to get to know these characters over the last couple of years there have been some interesting twists and turns, alliances and manipulations, betrayals and back stabbings – but Emmy and Bernice have always been friends. Now that this is starting to change, and they both know that it is, you can tell that Emmy is getting uncomfortable with her situation and her standing in the community. Her powers will allow her to do a lot of things but they won’t allow her to heal a broken friendship. There are some things that not even the most powerful witch can do. At the same time, Bernice’s standing in the community is starting to eclipse Emmy’s potentially causing some jealousy to erupt between the two girls. On the surface, this is a story about two girls dealing with a nasty ghost, but there’s a lot more to this under the surface and it’s that element of Bunn’s writing, that rock solid character development, that makes this book such a treat to read and which makes its more horrific side all the more frightening.
Tyler Crook’s artwork is once again just beautiful to look at. He has a knack for drawing perfect facial expressions and expressive eyes that really helps to make the script seem real. Additionally those woods where all of this takes place are appropriately dark and eerie and the otherworldly creatures that inhabit them effectively spooky and wonderfully rendered in a bizarre, macabre style.
This series keeps getting better and it hasn’t missed a beat yet. Great stuff, a perfect blend of backwoods horror and heartfelt drama.