Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Naomi Franquiz
Letterer: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Surprisingly, I have yet to read Harrow County — the Eisner-nominated Southern-gothic horror that topped many pull lists during its run (2015-2018). Dark Horse has revived the award-winning series in Tales from Harrow County, a spinoff that will take us through the life of the Southern town in various miniseries. The first of which, Death Choir’s, is set 10 years after the last issue of Harrow County, where Bernice Anderson has dutifully kept watch over Harrow and the ever-present supernatural threat.
Because the story is so far removed in time from the end of the original series, I found this first issue to be extremely accessible to someone who isn’t familiar with the world or characters. It also successfully gave me a taste of the captivating little town and the unique people living there, almost guaranteeing that I’ll be going back to read the source material. With eight trade paperbacks and four library tomes that include additional short stories, I have a lot of catching up to do!
So, what’s going on in Harrow? Unfortunately, the town hasn’t been doing so well since Emmy Crawford left 10 years ago, leaving Bernice as supernatural steward. But it isn’t some mystical curse that has befallen the families of Harrow; it’s the unsettling quiet of wartime. The young men have left to fight in World War II — many never to return, leaving behind broken loved ones and empty homes. A heavy, mournful silence has fallen over the town, and yet a strong resolve has been set into the hearts of (most) its residents.
That resolve is Bernice, who tirelessly works to help her neighbors and heal their wounds with her magic. Through her eyes, writer Cullen Bunn shows us the best and worst of Harrow, and the darkness beyond the supernatural that Bernice will have to reckon with. Her narration eloquently bookends the issue, pulling you into the story slowly, almost quietly, only to end on a horrific note.
Naomi Franquiz’s artwork is beautiful to behold, and the watercolors are so vibrant, offering rich textures. I’ve been a fan of her work since Misfit City, and she’s done a wonderful job keeping the spirit of the first Harrow County comics alive in her own style. I’m particularly struck by her emotive facial expressions and am also in love with Bernice’s look in this time period!