New To You Comics #107: More Southern Fried Gothic Horror In ‘Harrow County’ Vol. 2

by Brendan M. Allen

Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.

New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Most of the time they can find some common ground, but even when they don’t, it’s fun to watch them go at it. Brendan fights dirty. Tony kicks like a mule. 

This week, Brendan introduces Tony to Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County Vol. 2: Twice Told

Here’s what Dark Horse says about the book:

‘After uncovering Harrow County’s twisted history and her bizarre connection to its populace, Emmy forges a profound new relationship with the land and its creatures—but a familiar and sinister presence lurking just over the county lines seeks to wreak havoc on Emmy’s new harmony.’

Brendan Allen: We covered the first arc of Harrow County in NTYC #65 way back in April 2021. I’ve been wanting to go back and hit up this second arc since then. That first book stands alone beautifully, but this is one of the stories that does get better and better as it opens up and breathes in the second and subsequent arcs. 

Tony Thornley: I don’t remember how far into the series I’ve read, but I’m comfortable in saying Harrow County is Bunn’s best work. This is just a great book beginning to end.

Brendan: In chapter 5-8, Emmy learns that she isn’t the only thing that crawled out of the hanging tree on the night Hester Beck was strung up. Em has a twin, Kammi, who shows up out of nowhere for a creepy Parent Trap style reunion. More to this kid than she’s letting show, though, obviously. Kammi appears to have inherited Beck’s mean streak in addition to her powers. The shaky truce between haints and humans is threatened as Kammi tries to rally the monsters against Emmy and the townsfolk. 

Tony: Kammi’s role in the story is very tropey, and there’s two ways that Bunn could have used that. He leans in with her here. She’s an evil twin, and she’s also exactly what everyone expects Emmy to be- Hester reborn. The series didn’t necessarily need an antagonist like this but Bunn creating one helps him to subvert expectations and deepen the lore of the story. What it does for Emmy’s journey too is the greatest benefit. But that’s getting ahead of this volume.

Brendan: That’s a great point. It’s like Emmy’s trial. Since she doesn’t have an opportunity to reject Hester’s ideology in person, Kammi works really well in proxy, giving Emmy a flesh-and-blood adversary who embodies her own evil potential.

Did it come through last time we did this how much I love this series? I picked it up with Harrow County #16, way back when I was first starting out in comics journalism. Sixteen is a strange issue, and it was in the middle of an arc, so I had no idea what the hell was happening, but I loved it so much I immediately went back and grabbed the first fifteen chapters. Witchcraft, monsters, murder, and suspense in a classic Southern coming-of-age tale. Harrow County has all the good stuff. 

Tony: Oh definitely. It’s full of great stuff. Southern Gothic may be one of my favorite horror subgenres, and Bunn and Crook both just do amazing things with it here. 

Can I repeat all the nice things I said about Crook from last time we talked about this book? Because they’re all still true.

Brendan: I know, right? There are only so many ways you can say it. 

One of the things I really love about the floppies, and this is just a tiny little detail, but I look forward to it in every chapter, is the hidden title on the first page spread. It’s just a fun little thing Crook started doing in the very first book, and I love seeing all the ways he hides ‘Harrow County’ in tree bark, or blood spatter, or rays of sun peeking through the treetop foliage. 

Tony: The only problem with those spreads is that sometimes there’s captions or dialogue on them.

Sorry Cullen.

Brendan: Crook also did a fantastic job separating Emmy and Kammi visually, while keeping their individual looks close enough that it’s plain to see that they’re twins. Kammi has a way of holding herself, and a swagger that comes from upper crust living. The townsfolk are fooled in passing, but as soon as anyone gets close enough to her, they realize this isn’t their resident good witch. 

Tony: Oh yeah, I talk about acting when I talk about art often, and this is what I mean. Kammi’s confidence makes her a little scary, then Crook adds a little bit of mania in her eye… Oh it’s good work.

Brendan: I think I mentioned before how the art is somehow simultaneously horrifying and wholesome.  It’s such a fine line, but Crook walks it with the confidence of a veteran funambulist. There are the big creature events, but even in the silent reflective moments, there’s a presence, some awful thing in the peripheral, just out of sight. You don’t need to see it. You can feel it.

Tony: Oh absolutely. It’s just packed and always stunningly beautiful. I cannot think of a book that’s nearly as good looking. I think we said last time that we would both buy an art book from the series. That still holds true here.

Brendan: Word. Where’d you land on this one?

Tony: The series is probably my favorite creator owned book of the last decade or so. It’s just great.

Brendan: Agreed. What’s up for next week?

Tony: We’re going to check out a book I haven’t read from a creator we both enjoy- Godzilla: The Half-Century War by James Stokoe!

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