“But even though she was tired, Emmy dreaded closing her eyes once again. She could not shake the word the tree had spoken. ‘Lies,’ the tree had said.”
Emmy is a sweet, normal girl about to celebrate her eighteenth birthday. She reads. She dreams of exploring the world. She helps her father out with the family farm. But Emmy is plagued. Nightmares haunt her at night. Ghosts reach out to her during the day; an old tree taunts her with violent visions, and a single word: “Lies.”
Cullen Bunn (The Damned, The Sixth Gun) is known for noir, southern gothic, and horror. On the surface, his newest book, Harrow County (Dark Horse Comics), doesn’t appear to be much of a departure. So let’s call it a detour, a turn off the beaten path of Bunn’s aesthetic into the “backwoods” rural setting where he was raised, where, separated from the lights of any city, you really experience the true meaning of darkness. It’s a place where secrets are kept for generations, where morals are upheld, yet ignored, and where, I imagine, you’d find a darn good slice of homemade apple pie.
In an interview, Bunn called Harrow County “sweet horror” because, although faced with real terrors, Emmy appears to be a lovable character who takes it all in stride. Though she fears the tree that haunts her dreams, she walks through the woods and communes with her surroundings with inquisitive bravery. Mignola’s endorsement is completely accurate: Harrow County is both extremely charming and completely disturbing. Tyler Crook’s (B.P.R.D: Hell on Earth) breathtaking and brutal watercolor pages makes it look like the most terrifying children’s book you’ve ever read.
What I love about this first issue is that, like a harrow, Bunn has just scraped at the surface at the tale. We know Emmy is haunted, and we can guess by whom. She clearly has a strong, almost metaphysical connection with the land on which she lives, and yet she feels trapped by it. By the end, I was left with questions I absolutely wanted answered.
Pick up Harrow County, read it from the beginning. Something tells me there’s more to this comic than meets the eye.
[Disclaimer: A review copy was provided for me to review this comic.]