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Harrow County: Volumes Two-Four

I just discovered the southern gothic supernatural series Harrow County and loved it! The story recently came to a close with it’s eighth volume, so I have the pleasure of being able to devour the entire series. As such, here are my reviews of volumes two, three and four.

Volume Two: Twice Told

In the first volume, Emmy discovered that she has powers and is somehow connected to witch Hester Beck who was killed by the townsfolk the day Emmy was born. Having survived an attempt of her life, the villagers now respect her and Emmy grows into her powers. She only uses them for good and becomes familiar with the supernatural creatures, called haints, that live in the surrounding area. But Emmy’s “twin” Kammi appears and upends everything. Kammi seems to be the mirror image of Emmy, as she is sophisticated and evil. Emmy’s best friend Bernice is wary of her, but Emmy is desperate for answers and overlooks Kammi’s behavior until Kammi confronts her with an army of evil haints. Emmy has her own coalition, but the ending seemed rushed, and I know this won’t be the last we see of Kammi.

Volume Three: Snake Doctor

In this volume we get some stand alone stories that do some world building for Harrow County. But I most enjoyed the middle story that centered on the appealing Bernice. It turns out Emmy doesn’t have the corner on magic, and Bernice becomes an apprentice of sorts to a snake handling witch who hunts out snakes that are manifestations of evil.  This should lead to Bernice being more of a partner to her best friend, which is a promising direction.

Two other artists are featured in chapters one and four and I did not like it at all. They don’t even try to mimic the style of Tyler Crook, and it is his evocative art that defines the series. I have always liked series that were consistent with their author and artist such as Locke and Key, Revival, The Walking Dead, Manifest Destiny and The Wicked & The Divine. But perhaps that observation should be the subject a future discussion post…

Volume Four: Family Tree

In the fourth volume we finally get some back story on Hester’s powers and meet some magical “family members”. Odessa, who had been referred to in the previous volume, is shown, and while she seems to be a sort of mentor to Emmy, she and the others want to destroy Harrow County and all it’s inhabitants so Emmy will stay with them. Well, Emmy won’t accept that, and it turns out her so-called family underestimated her powers. This was a typical origins story- some answers are given, while raising many more.

Cullen Bunn’s story remains strong, as did Crook’s art. My reviews of the remaining four volumes won’t be far behind, as I am *dying* to find out the rest of Emmy’s story!

-Nancy

Check out my other Harrow County reviews: Volume One, Volumes Five-Six, Volumes Seven-Eight

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Harrow County: Countless Haints

Harrow County is an eerie southern gothic fairy tale, and after recently reading Bone Parish and now this, Cullen Bunn is becoming a favorite author of mine.

The opening pages begin with the hanging of suspected witch Hester Beck. As she is hanging from a tree while lit on fire, she swears revenge and tells the surrounding crowd that she will be back.  This old burnt hanging tree is on the edge of the property of teen Emmy and her widowed father. Emmy is about to turn eighteen and is helping her father with a calf’s birth, when a traveling salesman and his granddaughter Bernice arrive on the farm. The two men speak privately about their worries that Emmy could be a reincarnated Hester, and that her birthday will reveal a hidden evil. Later when Emmy is exploring the nearby woods, she discovers her first haint, a skinless boy that speaks to her. It is his later warnings that alert Emmy that danger is near, and her seemingly kind father doesn’t even trust her. A showdown occurs, and secret alliances are revealed. Who can Emmy trust? Her father? Bernice? The skinned boy? Can she even trust herself?

The story has a lot of potential, as Emmy is shown as a young woman who is trying desperately to understand the mysteries of her possible origin and the decades long secrets that the townspeople have. This is a much better adaptation of that sort of story than the disappointing Wytches. The title hints that countless more ghostly haints will be discovered, and how Emmy reacts and utilizes them will certainly be intriguing.

Illustrated by Tyler Crook, he creates an atmospheric southern locale with believable and varied townspeople. His dark woods scenes are my favorite, with his spooky corners that could harbor sinister haints. He opened each new chapter with a two page spread that somehow incorporated the words Harrow County into the background, and I enjoyed looking for how he would do it each time. His artwork is reminiscent of Emily Carroll’s work in Through the Woods, and the comparison holds up because both Carroll and Crook draw their characters young looking with an apple cheeked motif. In this case, Emmy was drawn way too young looking. At eighteen years old, she should have been drawn as a young woman and not so child-like, but other than that complaint, the artwork is a perfect match for the story.

As this was the first of an eight book series, I aim to visit Harrow County more in the future and see what awaits Emmy!

-Nancy

Check out my other Harrow County reviews: Volumes Two-Four, Volumes Five-Six & Volumes Seven-Eight

Bunn, Cullen & Tyler Crook. Harrow County: Countless Haints. 2015.

Locke & Key: Volumes 2-6

This is one of the BEST graphic novel series EVER! Strong from beginning to end- I can’t recommend it enough! I will now wait as you rush out to purchase this series…

Ok, are you back from the book store? Let’s continue. When I read the first volume back in April, I said “Locke & Key is truly one of the best the best graphics novel I have ever read, hands down. It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and this first novel makes me anxious to read the rest of the series. Who cares that I have family, work and school commitments? Lovecraft is calling me.” Well, real life got in the way and I didn’t want to read the rest of the series piecemeal, so I waited until my family was on vacation to give my undivided time to finishing the series.

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Volume 2-Head Games:

After reading the first volume of the Locke & Key series and absolutely loving it, I knew I had to read all six volumes. Each book is dense, and takes time to get through, but is so worth the effort. This second volume delves deeper into world building, with much back story and character development. Dodge, the malevolent soul released from the well by Bode, has now managed to worm himself closer to the family by taking on a new guise. The Locke family is none the wiser, for “Zack” manages to manipulate or take out any other person who suspects the truth. More magic keys appear, with intriguing diary entries from a Revolutionary era ancestor in the back of the book explaining the powers of each key. The Head Key proves to be the most intriguing for a head can be opened and memories examined, showing how memories can be subjective to each person. The illustrations showing’s Bode’s colorful kaleidoscope of memories, compared to Ellie’s black and white adult memories are brilliant.

Volume 3-Crown of Shadows:

The third volume continues to dominate. The Locke family is still struggling over the death of the father, with the mother Nina crumbling under the strain of her rape and her husband’s murder. Her drinking takes a toll on the whole family, with Kinsey and Tyler having to take on the adult roles of parenting their little brother since their mother is too drunk to do so. More keys are discovered and used for evil by Zack, but combated by the three siblings with their own keys, still not knowing who is behind the attacks. Nina discovers a magic chest (which surprised me for they make a point in saying that the magic is for the young) which fixes broken items, leading her to put her husband’s ashes in and hoping for a miracle. Unfortunately, it can not mend death, leading to a poignant conclusion of Nina’s breakdown and the discovery of the mysterious Omega Key.

Volume 4-Keys to the Kingdom:

Another solid entry but it runs into the “middle problem” of a series, when the beginning sets up the plot and atmosphere, and the middle is left with hanging story lines, before the last volumes (hopefully) wrap up everything successfully. The beginning of the book was a fun start, with the illustrations drawn to emulate Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes style, to set up the stage for an animal showdown. Many more keys are found by the Locke siblings, and for the first time, they are not documented in the diary entries but they are obvious as to their power with the awesome battle illustrations drawn by Rodriguez. Lucas/Zack is still manipulating the family, especially Kinsey whom he romances, but Tyler is beginning to put together the clues. The end of this volume concludes with an epic cliff hanger.

Not every series can be perfect- and I do have some issues: I found the Skin Key to be problematic with stereotypical racial overtones, Ellie’s constant misfortune including her son Rufas’s intellectual disability and the implication that he is too stupid for the Head Key to be used on him, and the teenagers poor decisions in regards to what they let their friends and love interests know. I do look forward to how volumes five and six resolve the story, and hopefully tie up some of my stated issues.

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Volume 5-Clockworks:

Backstory awesomeness!!! We finally get an explanation of the keys’ origin during the Revolutionary War era, as hinted by the diary entries of different Locke generations in the back of the previous volumes. The present day Locke’s discover the Timeshift Key enabling them to witness history. They observe the first Locke family as they endure tragedy from the British while protecting the American rebels. Tyler and Kinsey watch as the 1700’s Locke children witness the evil hiding in the caverns below their home. Later we are privy to what happened in 1988 with Rendell (the father as a teenager) and his friends and how the evil invaded Lucas. It was especially heartbreaking to see how Lucas had truly loved Ellie, until he was accidentally taken over, all due to Rendell’s immaturity and bad ideas. This volume had many tragic deaths, all of whom were innocent, due to the evil that got loose from the Black Door. I can not wait to see how this story concludes, and what will happen to Bode, now that the evil is in him. What legacy awaits the Locke’s?

Volume 6- Alpha & Omega:

All the mythology that has been building over the series comes to an epic conclusion. The entire Locke family is fighting for their survival, as an evil entity has been gaining strength and is determined to take over. This coincides with prom, and a large group of foolish teens head into the cave for after prom festivities, not knowing that they are walking into evil’s lair. The final showdown occurs with Kinsey and Tyler fighting the demon that looks like their little brother. Other friends step up to assist, often with devastating results. The death toll builds, with some surprising twists and turns. Will they be able to vanquish the enemy, and at what terrible price? While the poignant epilogue gives the Locke family some closure, and a few happy endings, the Locke family is forever changed by the demons they fought and the tragedies they endured.

A few final wrap ups: The artwork made this series for it established the atmosphere to coincide with Hill’s magnificent and well paced storytelling.  Rodriguez is crazy talented. He has included Easter eggs in this series from the start, with details drawn into pictures or words written into books in a library background, so I had to smile when I recognized Hill and Rodriguez drawn as the paramedics on page 18. Although I have been on the lookout for eggs, I wonder how many other details I have missed or what other background characters have been people the artist knows.

So everyone, you MUST READ this horror series! Beg, borrow or steal these books. You will be glad you did.

-Nancy

L&K

 

Wytches

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Snyder, Scott & Jock. Wytches. 2015.

The Rooks Family moves to Litchfield, NH, a remote town in which they hope to escape the trauma that their daughter Sailor has experienced recently. They live in a secluded home, in which the father Charlie can work on his best selling children’s books, while the mother who is in a wheelchair works as a nurse at a nearby hospital. We find out early that Sailor had been terrorized by a bully at their previous town, and while out in the woods, the girl threatening Sailor was grabbed and dragged into a tree by monstrous hands. As the story sounds unbelievable, some people assume Sailor killed her.

Mysterious people appear and strange situations begin to occur to the family. Sailor ends up in the woods by her new house after a stressful situation at school, and is dragged into the Wytches lair, along with her uncle. When her parents report her missing, a search party looks for her, but the Sheriff doesn’t seem especially concerned. A strange vigilante that had previously hurt the father, helps Charlie obtains clues and weaponry that will help him rescue his daughter from the underground den. While his rescue attempt is successful, all hell breaks loose at home and in the town now that the secret is out. The Wytches come to the surface and secret allegiances are revealed. An epic fight ensues and sacrifices are made, and the story is set up to continue as this will be a series.

The artwork is unique, but I don’t especially mean that in a good way. The layout and illustrations were fine, but the paint splatters that were overlaid on all of the pictures became quite distracting. While this overprint technique was supposed to convey a mind-bending surrealness to the story, it failed. Paint blotches do not equal scariness.

While an intriguing premise this book fell flat for me. The characters were annoying, and there were several contrived scenes.  How people become pledged to the coven seemed indiscriminate, and while I hope the Wytches are vanquished, I won’t be sticking around for the final showdown.

-Nancy

 

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