Harrow County: Snake Doctor

September 23, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

snakeHarrow County: Snake Doctor by Cullen Bunn, et al.


Harrow County is a fantastic horror comic, full of atmosphere and otherworldliness, preferring to show the disquiet of events instead of close-ups of amputations and mutilations. It’s not for the faint of heart, but neither is it excessive or exploitative. It’s a perfect blend of story and character, and the artwork matches it perfectly.

Until Snake Doctor, that is. Each collection so far has comprised four issues in the main series, covering a single arc in Emmy’s story, but Snake Doctor is made up of one two-part story, bookended by two one-shot stories. The two one-shots are drawn by artists who are not Tyler Crook, who has defined the look of the series. The first one has a style that is close enough to the usual style not to be too intrusive, but the second one is such a divergence that it’s like reading a different title. Even my favorite comic series had different artists, but here it’s almost like sacrilege. I can’t imagine anyone other than Fiona Staples drawing Saga, for example, and I can’t see anyone other than Crook capturing the horror of this title.

The middle story has the usual feel of the title, but it features Emmy only tangentially. I like that the authors are expanding their focus, showing what it means to be in Emmy’s orbit, but it seemed to go in an odd direction. Part of what makes the title unique is how Emmy is the witch, and that’s as far as the supernatural goes. What supernatural does happen in the story orbits Emmy, but here we see that the unusual things happening around her town aren’t necessarily related to her. Plus, the story sets up the reader to believe one thing, and then by the end subverts that idea into something unexpected. I don’t have a problem with that, but Bunn creates that setup and reversal over the course of two issues. It felt rushed, and unsatisfying.

The first three stories in the collection suggest that there’s more to the story than what we get here, and that alone will keep me reading this title. The last one, though, feels like a throwaway story, like it was written to fulfill a deadline. Snake County is the weakest of the series so far, but I hope to see it pick up with the next volume.

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