June 20, 2017

Dark Horse Reviews: Harrow County #24

Harrow County #24
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Crook
Cover: Tyler Crook

My first exposure to Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County proved a little disquieting. I’m not familiar with their previous work, but there was an immediate uneasiness that crept on the periphery of my mind as I eased through the pages. Sensed more than felt, it grew heavier, graver with each panel. At one point, about five pages in to issue #24, I had to go back and start over. I wasn’t appropriately centered on the macabre journey on which I was embarking. Reframing my reference for the book’s young protagonist and her adversary, for the world they inhabit, afforded a more complete suffusion of the material.

The narrative is joined with the two adolescent girls locked in confrontation. Here the evocative visual strength of the medium is in full display. The dark tones and muted colors infuse the panels with a sense of desolation. A raging storm obscures an oppressively dark wood bristling with still darker inhabitants, and it is not clear who is the transgressor and who is the just. For characters this age, the gravity of the trespass is well defined and the ambiguity is enthralling. Amid pleas for temperance and understanding the tension is ramped up by strikingly rendered exhibitions of supernatural malice. The murky, even amorphous quality of Crook’s art is striking and consistent.

As young Emmy and Bernice exchange terse exclamations, it becomes clear that a deep and long-standing friendship had been betrayed at great personal cost. Emmy isn’t alone, and her companions have already condemned Bernice for hunting and killing their own. While the deformed visages stalk the pair warily, clamoring for retribution, Bernice reveals the motivation for her own wrath. Her friend had committed a vile and unforgivable crime. The text itself belies a maturity in these young women’s convictions that rings both heartfelt and agonizing. Bunn’s narration is melodic, contrasting Bernice’s pointed accusations and steadfast ultimatum.

Surprisingly, the contest is settled by the appearance of a fiery apparition. The actual subject of Bernice’s anguish manifests to allay Bernice’s vengeful antipathy. Lovey, a cherished but misunderstood family member, identifies the culprit of her murder and entreaties both girls to forgo further hostility. A very close, well concealed threat has manipulated the pair. It will require a concerted effort to defeat and even then, it will not be easily overcome. The pacing is brisk but appropriately so, as Bunn deftly sets the stage for a looming escalation. The closing panels shift the focus entirely, to a Machiavellian cohort engaged in a heinous ritual. This creative team has envisioned a stark and immersive lore that begs be explored. My only complaint of being deprived of the preceding issues by muy own ignorance. I seek to rectify that situation promptly And look forward to getting acquainted with the inhabitants Harrow County.

Christian Davenport


One Comment

  1. Iron_Matt

    Had no idea Bunn was doing a straight up horror book now. Might have to see if there’s a trade or something to give it a look

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