‘Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints’ – Advance TPB Review

Nothing makes me giddier than a well-told horror story, and I don’t mean the crap churned out these days from the Hollywood meat factory. I like when you can read a horror story and you feel the roots of the characters reaching deep into the fertile soil of its own myth and lore, living off the blood of a genuine need to reveal all of its own secrets. You get that feeling when you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stephen King’s The Shining, Alan Moore’s . . . well, anything, and Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County.

Engulfing Harrow County are woods that seem to have no end, that expand the deeper you disappear into them. Emmy, a naïve and good-hearted young woman, lives on a farm with her father near those woods. Outside her bedroom window stands an ominous tree that she has nightmares about. She knows something happened there, and true enough, as readers we are introduced to this world before Emmy’s existence. 18 years ago, the townsfolk turned on a witch and hung her there.

Now on the verge of her eighteenth birthday, the haints (a twist on the word “haunts” that describe the dark creatures she can feel are there but can’t see) come to warn her. One such haint that she openly accepts into her life as a new friend comes in the form of a dead boy that can leave his skin behind to speak with her, while his skinless body keeps eye on those that would hurt her. Like a twisted fairy tale, Emmy folds up the skin and puts it in her travel bag in the bottom drawer of her dresser. The innocence on display is mind-boggling and immediately separates Emmy from almost any other female hero in a world of horror.

The first story arc follows Emmy as she awakens to who she is, how those around her feel about her, and who she chooses to be despite her more violent tendencies. You feel the roots spread deep and take firm hold.

Not only is there a darkly haunting quality to the story, but also a very charming one - innocent. It reads and feels like a coming-of-age story, a fairy tale. A lot of this can be owed to Tyler Crook’s artwork and his deft use of lush watercolors to bring the world to life. It gives it a dimension and depth, a real beauty that few other comics have and that only highlights the more terrifying elements of the world. You see everything as if through the imagination of a child.

That’s what makes this book worth reading. The reality that Bunn and Crook create is fresh and alive. Give it a shot.

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