• Harrow County #24

    Harrow County #24
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: June 14th, 2017.
    Written by: Cullen Bunn
    Illustrated by: Tyler Crook
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    Emmy’s out in the brush with a few of her haint friends when the rain comes down and the lighting strikes. Bernice is with her, it’s not going well. Frogs are flying all over the place and when one of them hits Emmy’s hand, it burns like acid. Bernice tells her that she brought this upon herself, Emmy just wants to talk things over. One of the haints tries to help by eating a frog, but you can’t eat poison without repercussions. Emmy knows she’s strong enough to use her powers to stop Bernice dead in her tracks right now, but they are – were? – best friends. She doesn’t want to do that.

    The haints, encroach on Bernice but Emmy calls them off and her familiar, the skinless boy, helps her. One of the haints – Priscilla – reminds Emmy that she promised to protect them, and that Bernice has been hunting and killing them but Emmy makes it clear that she will not let friends hurt each other.

    The creatures scurry off into the forest and the dark night, giving Emmy and Bernice a chance to cool down. Emmy makes it clear that she won’t fight Bernice, who responds in kind by running off into the night without saying a word. Emmy things someone has tricked Bernice into thinking that she’s done something she hasn’t, something awful. Shortly after, Emmy goes after Bernice but on the way a force that she cannot see assails her, and before she knows it she’s in the middle of a circle of stones, each one adorned with a drop of her own blood. Emmy realizes that by using her own blood against her Bernice was able to cause her harm, the same blood she spilled when the two of them met the Key Hole Ghost. Bernice appears and confesses to this, and also accuses Emmy or one of her haints of murdering Lovey, her mentor. Bernice tells Emmy to leave, and then Lovey appears (which is not a spoiler, because she's right there on the cover)…

    A plague of frogs that burn to the touch, a battle between witches, a visit from someone who comes from beyond the grave and a great twist ending that might in hindsight seem inevitable but which still packs a punch – this issue delivers. Not that every issue of Harrow County doesn’t deliver, because so far they all have, but Bunn’s writing has done such a great job of building up character development and backstory and twisting and turning the different plot threads that exist in this story that, well, they’re all working together at this point. The end result is a rich world rooted in folk stories and legend, a story rooted in the south, in small towns, the kind you hear about those old empty houses on the outskirts of town, where that weird old lady used to live all by herself. Like stories handed down to elementary school kids from the middle school kids who heard it from the high school kids who heard it from the college kids who obviously experienced it firsthand (or heard it from their parents), this stuff just gets under your skin.

    This issue won’t be kind to new readers, it’s not a good jumping on point, but for those who have stuck with Harrow County for a while, well, it doesn’t get much better than this. Add to the insanely good writing the equally insanely good artwork from Tyler Crook and it is, quite frankly, shocking that more people aren’t raving about this book. And a lot of people are, quite rightly, raving about this book, because it’s that damn good.

    In the back pages there’s an interesting text piece called The Devil’s Hoof Prints by Ma’at Crook that tells an eerie folk story from the outskirts of North Carolina. Take the time to read it, it’s pretty great.