If you have not visited Harrow County before, then fear not, says creator Cullen Bunn, you’re more than welcome to visit in this new series from Dark Horse Comics, Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir. Ten years later, the original series’ protagonist, Emmy, has moved on, leaving the care of the town’s supernatural concerns to her friend Bernice.
Tales from Harrow County #1
Cullen Bunn (creator, writer), Tyler Crook (co-creator), Naomi Franquiz (artist)
Dark Horse Comics
December 18, 2019
Taking place during World War II, the story opens with heartbreak as Bernice crosses paths with the postman who must deliver another letter of bad news to residents of the town. As if this weren’t enough suffering for the people of Harrow County, the first issue begins the story arc called “Death’s Choir,” where a haunting song is calling the dead home.
The original Harrow County stories feature critically acclaimed art by Tyler Crook. He has spoken about challenging himself by working in watercolour, and sharing his process on his blog. Harrow County’s new artist, Naomi Franquiz, has big shoes to fill, but she wears them well. She rises to the challenge of Crook’s legacy, working in gorgeous, swirling watercolours. Her style is softer and more rounded than Crook’s, but when the monsters come out of the shadows, Franquiz is no less skilled at shaping that horror in her own unique and terrifying way.
But the scares don’t jump out immediately. The creative team takes the time to introduce us to this new story and its mostly new faces. We get to understand the relationships and Bernice’s place in this world. Having not read Harrow County before, I was pleased to learn that, as the town witch, Bernice is not bound to darker tropes and negative stereotypes wherein the town witch isn’t entirely considered anathema by all the people, and her remedies aren’t considered forbidden. Instead, Bernice’s path first takes her to the doctor’s office where she is a tentatively welcome presence, even offering aid to the doctor. We get to see both what Bernice does and the kind of person she is through her care and who she cares for.
Franquiz is given ample opportunity to truly show what she’s made of, with many pages and panels moving the story forward with minimal or no words at all. Lovingly rendered backgrounds in warm greens and autumnal colours contrast the oppressive gloom of townspeople weighed down by loss. Meaningful glances express what words don’t need to.
When the song of the choir starts to pick up towards the end of the issue, the immensity of Bernice’s problem becomes apparent. While monstrous things have come knocking on doors, so too have fallen loved ones, meaning Bernice may have to contend with people who don’t want to let go of what was lost, even when faced with the potential for the dead overrunning the little town.
Tales from Harrow County: Death’s Choir is the first of a four-part story arc and the perfect opportunity to discover what lurks in the darkness of this quaint little town.