BLOOD SOAKED PANELS: Harrow County, Vol.1: Countless Haints

Here’s a new addition to Icons of Fright to help entice comic book fans who like to indulge in the panels of horror. Of course there are the classic TALES FROM THE CRYPT and ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN comics, but there are many stories out there waiting to be discovered. Not everything I’m going to cover will be some kind of subversive find, but I hope to have a blend of both mainstream and indie comics that I feel horror fans will enjoy. There will be a combination of one offs, continuing stories, and movie/TV show tie ins. This column will mainly focus on comics I love as life is too short to complain about the negative and there might be others like me searching for new blood.

 

Blood Soaked Panels: HARROW COUNTY VOLUME 1: COUNTLESS HAINTS

 

26617I feel like lately witches are a hot item and everyone is ready to cash in. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN introduced the world to a variety of witches for everyone to identify with on the small screen, while writer/director Robert Eggers brought on the divisive THE WITCH to theaters. We still have the comedic dark twist of HOCUS POCUS and the scary as shit BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook prove old folktales have a place in comics with the first volume of HARROW COUNTY.

Young Emmy is 17 and strange things are starting to happen around her farm as her birthday comes near. She has nightmares about the oak tree that stands outside her window, rumored to have once been struck by lightning. Eerie shadows cast on her bedroom walls and her Pa seems to be aware something sinister is going on, but won’t admit it to her. The men in town also seem to aware of a darkness looming and this is all connected to Emmy.

What Emmy doesn’t know is that eighteen years ago, her father was involved in the brutal killing of a witch named Hester Beck. Hester participated in dark rituals of baptisms in the woods and communicated with the supernatural beings that lived there. It was when they discovered her human offerings to the monsters that she was beaten, stabbed, hung AND burned just to guarantee her death was finalized. It’s this dark past that has come back to haunt Harrow County, but Emmy knows she’s a good girl. Any dark thoughts that cross her mind are dismissed, but she finds herself drawn to the woods.

There’s a strange traditional vibe to the story, where religion is key and any kind of vial behavior is a sign birthed by Satan. Conservative views encourage paranoia and a “we must get rid of the problem any way possible” mentality. Things get even more weird for Emmy when she discovers the living skin of a young boy who mumbles when things get tough. She hides the skin inside of her drawer, not realizing it might belong to someone who just might save her life.

COUNTLESS HAINTS doesn’t break down any new walls, but fans of witchcraft will get a kick out of the coming of age approach told as a twisted fairy tale. The story leaves with a kick in the groin that made me go “wait what?!” and promises to unfold in an unpredictable format. Once I got to the last couple pages (which I will not ruin) I realize that Volume One plays as an origin story, introducing readers to a small environment in hopes of attaching them to Emmy’s story and follow her as she evolves. She is very much the girl next door and it was amazing to watch her gain the self confidence most people her age lack as she becomes a young adult. Her self discovery makes her endearing and excites me to see what direction her story goes in future volumes of HARROW COUNTY.