Archive for Harrow County

Order of the Harrow


Harrow County #9

This issue — featuring artwork by none other than Carla Speed McNeil! — focuses on the Skinless Boy. A mysterious man comes through town and lures the young haint out of the house. He claims to be a cannibal, and he knows an awful lot about the ghostly kid than even the Skinless Boy does. The kid doesn’t know his name, and the cannibal says he does — and he shows the kid a home he claims was his when he was alive. The Skinless Boy puts his skin back on and tries to reclaim his life from the little boy sleeping inside — but you can never really go home again, can you?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, this is one of the most gloriously creepy and frightening horror comics on the stands. The cannibal — or the Boogeyman’s Boogeyman, as he calls himself at one point — makes a really wonderful new villain. And I was really jazzed to see McNeil contributing the artwork in this issue. Come on, y’all, you should all be reading this title.


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #3

The Asquith twins have finally cast their spell, despite interference from a bunch of supernatural ghoul/dogs — and Dancy Flammarion claws her way out of hell and out of the swamp. And just to remind everyone what a complete badass she is, the first thing she does after getting back on solid ground is kill a bull alligator — no clothes, covered in mud, and her only weapon a broken branch. After that, she wanders to the road, where she’s picked up by a kindly motorist. Ha ha, he’s not a kindly motorist, he’s sinister as all heck. He tells her that he gave her another ride back when she was alive before, and that was when he had a couple vampires riding in his back seat. The guy is shady as the night. But he takes Dancy to Selma, and she’s reunited with Maisie.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Finally, finally, Dancy Flammarion is back among the living and ready to start butchering monsters again. Fantastic atmosphere, particularly riding in the truck with the shady old guy. Ain’t many things as much fun as reading a good Dancy Flammarion comic.

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The Blackness of the Soul


Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird #1

Dancy Flammarion, the Southern possibly-crazy monster-hunting albino girl, is back. No, wait, actually, she’s not back. She’s dead, and apparently in Hell, which is an infinite blank space inhabited only by Dancy and, occasionally, her furious, vengeful angel. Dancy doesn’t want to be in Hell, but she’s also not too keen on the angel telling her that her life was worthless or a betrayal or something that should be renounced. And while Dancy is dead, shady underworld characters in the South, including a wealthy fixer and a couple of psychos wearing cute animal masks, celebrate her end. Good times are here again for the forces of evil…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was so excited to see this. I got so much joy out of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s amazing Dancy Flammarion stories, and it’s great that, even with a new artist, the series is still maintaining the extremely high quality we’ve come to expect from it. Y’all get in on this one early, okay?


Harrow County #8

Emmy now knows for certain that her “sister” Kammi is thoroughly evil. She’s rousted up all the most evil of the haints in Harrow County and set them after Emmy to kill her, while she plans on killing Emmy’s father, just to hurt her a little bit more. Can Emmy and the few friendly haints on her side manage to get the better of Kammi and her ghostly army? And where does the girls’ mother come in?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Less low-key creepiness this time and more out-and-out supernatural war — but there’s still a lot of good to say for this story. A confrontation between the two sisters and their contrasting views of the world probably couldn’t end any other way…


All-New Hawkeye #2

In the future, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop have been betrayed by SHIELD and imprisoned by the Mandarin. And he’s also captured one of the super-psychic kids who’d helped cause the massacre of Mandarin’s people — and he wants the Hawkeyes to get the psychic to work for him so he can use him for his own weapon of mass destruction. But Kate has an ace in the hole — her ex-boyfriend and Kree superhero Noh-Varr, who’s much better equipped to deal with hordes of robots and the Mandarin’s powers. So what’s the Hawkeyes next move?

Verdict: Ehh, close enough to a thumbs up. I like the look of the Mandarin, but a lot of the story was just kinda nowhere. The surprise appearance of Marvel Boy was my favorite bit.


The Ultimates #2

The Ultimates have a plan to neutralize Galactus. It involves obtaining the giant mechanical “cradle” that originally transitioned Galen, the last surviving being of the previous universe, into the Devourer of Worlds of this universe. While the Black Panther keeps Galactus distracted with monologuing (the only attack that all supervillains respect), Monica Rambeau and America Chavez obtain the birthing chamber and teleport it to Galactus, then the rest of the team blast him inside the cradle — and what emerges, transformed, may look like Galactus — but it definitely doesn’t act like him anymore.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s all fairly standard proactive superhero fare — but the final splash page certainly does sell the issue. It can’t last, of course, but it’ll be fun seeing how it all goes wrong.


Spider-Gwen #3

Gwen travels to the regular Marvel Universe because she’s stuck in adamantium handcuffs she can’t get off. Once the extremely pregnant Spider-Woman of our universe gets her free, it’s time for Gwen to head home, where Officer Ben Grimm has just been inducted to the NYPD’s anti-Spider-Woman task force. They suspect Captain George Stacy of being one of Spider-Woman’s assistants, because she’s rescued him twice — and others are suspecting there may be a connection, too, as Matt Murdock, blind attorney and rotten lieutenant to Wilson Fisk, pays Captain Stacy a visit.

Meanwhile, Gwen goes to see friends from school and runs into the long-lost Harry Osborn, one of her best friends, alongside the late Peter Parker. Unfortunately, Harry blames Spider-Woman for Peter’s death, just like everyone else — and he has plans for what he means to do about it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story, fun art, all kinds of great complications getting thrown into the blender. I still think Spider-Woman being pregnant is a bit out of left field, but her scenes with Gwen are really fantastic.


Starfire #7

Dick Grayson, Agent of SHIELD — um, Spyral or Spectre or whatever he’s an agent of — is in Florida tracking some bad guys. He disguises himself to get aboard a yacht — and as it turns out, Starfire is on the same boat, so he enlists her to help out. Will they be able to stop the villains, retrieve the secret package, and discover what kind of being is stalking Kory?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry — I thought it was more than a bit dull.

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Gother than Thou


The Wicked + the Divine #16

Our main focal character in this issue is the Morrigan, with Baphomet as the secondary focus. Morrigan is imprisoned inside Valhalla, and she remembers her previous life as a mortal. She used to be Marian, and Baphomet was Cameron, a couple of goth kids dating each other and playing live-action “Vampire: The Masquerade.” When Ananke chooses Marian as the Morrigan, Cameron is lost — until Ananke is persuaded to promote him to godhood, too.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loved getting to learn more about Morrigan and Baphomet, thought the LARPing segments were wonderful, and I really enjoyed Leila Del Duca’s artwork.


Harrow County #7

Country-girl witch Emmy just recently met her big-city twin Kammi, who is a lot more evil than Emmy is. She’s roaming the county, meeting the various monsters and haints, and working to recruit them to her side. Emmy suspects Kammi is up to no good, but is she going to find any allies of her own before it’s too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Kammi is an entirely horrible person. She goes out and finds the most awful critters in the forest, knows exactly what they want, and is probably a great deal scarier than most of them. Her picnic lunch in the woods, consisting entirely of rotting meat, is really something else. Yeah, this is the most fun, spookiest, creepiest horror comic on the stands today.

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Digging Up the Dead


Harrow County #6

Country-girl witch Emmy is getting to know her big-city twin Kammi, who’s a lot more comfortable with the evil part of being a witch. She’s overjoyed to see the tree where she was born and wants to dig up her mother’s skeleton. She goes on a ride through town — everyone thinks she’s Emmy having a fancy day. She meets up with the man who’d asked Emmy to kill his wife’s admirer — and Kammi is much more willing to consider what he’s asking.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is mostly a fairly quiet character study on how mentally messed-up Kammi is — but we do get some pretty horrific stuff right at the end. Mercy, Kammi is really bad news, and this is a really good horror comic.


The New Avengers #1

The “Secret Wars” crossover is almost over, so that means it’s time to meet some new Avengers teams. This new series by Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval features the heroes of A.I.M. — Avengers Idea Mechanics — featuring Songbird, Wiccan, Hulkling, Power Man, White Tiger, and Squirrel Girl (and Tippy-Toe!), with Roberto DaCosta, a.k.a the mutant Sunspot as the team’s multi-billionaire funder. The team is on their way to Paris to deal with attacks by a bunch of people with diamond heads.

The readers learn the mastermind behind the entire thing — it’s Ultimate Reed Richards, who was a major supervillain as the Maker. He’s planning to use science to invade the universe with the afterlife, and he’s got a compromised S.H.I.E.L.D. team as his slaves. Meanwhile, DaCosta meets with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Dum Dum Dugan, who introduces him to the agency’s not-so-secret mole — Clint Barton.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I actually dig the weird art style, and I’m really digging this particular team, most of whom have never gotten to be official Avengers before. And I’m relieved that Squirrel Girl is so wonderfully funny — I was worried they’d try to turn her into a serious superhero at some point.


Spider-Gwen #1

The alternate-universe adventures of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman, return to comics. While racing to her new job at the Dollar Dog corn dog restaurant chain — and giving the cops the slip while talking to her dad on the phone — Gwen learns that her new workplace has been destroyed by an oversized humanoid lizard. Has Peter Parker returned from the dead? Is (impressively mustached) Curt Connors responsible? And does the Lizard have an unexpected sponsor?

Verdict: Thumbs up. More of all the stuff we loved about the first Spider-Gwen series — humor, angst, action, drama, great art, and awesome characters.

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Evil Twins


Harrow County #5

Emmy spends most of this issue cementing her new status as the county’s good witch/kind mother. She makes nice with her dad, with the skinless boy, with her friend Bernice, with the gigantic demon in the woods, with a gremlin spoiling the grain at the local silo, with the townspeople — and she even makes sure the folks in town who think they can push her around know that they really, really can’t. And then they get a visitor in a fancy car, and she’s wearing a very familiar face…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Even in an issue where it’s mostly Emmy going around being friendly with everyone, we still get some wonderfully creepy moments — anything with the monstrous demon in the woods, the little grumbling haint in the grain silo, even Bernice’s worries about whether she’s human or not. And to top it all off, there’s a nice supposedly-true ghost story about a movie theater ghost at the end.


Bitch Planet #5

Earth is eagerly awaiting the big Megaton match between the home team boys and the upstart women players from Bitch Planet. But a scrimmage game in the prison between Kamau Kogo team of prisoners and a team made up the guards makes it clear that this will be a very hard game for the women — the other team will be allowed to cheat as much as they want, and they’ll never suffer any penalties for infractions, no matter how severe. Is there any hope for the Bitch Planet team?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story, great action — and a great illustration of how much trouble the team is going to have. They’re the despised women cast off from a deeply misogynist society where everything is permitted as long as it hurts a woman. They’ve got a severely uphill battle ahead.

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They’re Coming to Get You


Harrow County #4

Emmy is on the run from everyone she knows — they all believe she’s a reincarnated witch who’ll destroy them all. But in fact, she is the reincarnated witch, and she made other enemies in her old life who are a lot more dangerous, including one absolutely gigantic demon who blames her for dying and leaving him alone in the wilderness. Soon, she meets up with Mr. Straightaway, the town pharmacist, who promises to help her, but actually just chloroforms her and ties her up. He reveals a lot of her old self’s story — rejected by the townspeople, she created people from mud who could go into the town and tell everyone she was worth keeping around. But they eventually turned on her and destroyed her. Is Emmy like the old witch she used to be? Or is she willing to be something different?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful, dark, creepy, atmospheric storytelling and art. And listen, you’re reading the columns at the end of the comics, right? Because those are some of the creepiest parts of the magazine. This issue is no different, as writer Cullen Bunn tells us about the man who lived under his house when he was a boy.


All Star Section Eight #3

The Martian Manhunter has, shockingly, agreed to join Section Eight, promising to lead them to the heroic glory which is their birthright. Meanwhile, Bueno Excellente’s knightly rival for Guts’ love is finally revealed: Sir Percival Orifice, Tape of the Wyrm! Should we review who these people are? Bueno Excellente, who defeats evil with the power of perversion? Guts, a lady who is literally a bunch of internal organs? Sir Percival Orifice, a gigantic talking tapeworm? With a mustache? Who has actually been living inside Guts all this time? And what will be J’onn J’onzz’s reaction when he stumbles upon the epic duel?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Any comic that features an off-panel sex-battle between an obese pervert wearing a thong and a giant talking tapeworm with a mustache — and which includes sound effects like “Penetrate,” “Cup,” and “Inappropriately Touch” — has got to be one for the record books.


Howard the Duck #5

All the superheroes are gonna try to put the smackdown on the awesomely powerful Talos the Untamed, a loser Skrull who managed to get his hands on a moderately powerful gauntlet-type weapon called the Abundant Glove. Howard and his new friend Tara Tam beat feet, since they’re unpowered and not equipped to deal with world-ending battles — or are they? Howard has already deduced that Tara is hiding a secret, and Tara reveals that, like the fabled Skrull Kill Krew of olden times, she gained shapeshifting powers by eating a Skrull that had been shapeshifted into — to Howard’s horror — a duck! Can a shapeshifting tattoo artist and an agitated anthropomorphic duck save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A clever and funny story. Nice to see the Skrull Kill Crew return, or at least get mentioned again. And it was also cool watching elements from the cover crop up throughout the rest of the issue. Unfortunately, this is another book that’s been temporarily cancelled — it’ll be back in a couple of months.

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  • I’m of mixed feelings on this. Yes, the earlier days of “Peanuts” were stronger, and the over-reliance on Snoopy was probably part of why the strip declined. But even in its final days, it was still better than most other strips on the comics pages, and I loved it heart and soul clear to its end.
  • The deal that gave first-run rights for Sesame Street to HBO was probably a good deal for everyone — Sesame Street got saved and PBS viewers won’t really miss out on anything.
  • Marvel’s upcoming “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” looks amazing.
  • I’m fairly jazzed about the return of Blackalicious, one of my favorite hip hop groups.

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Storm Chaser


Starfire #2

Hurricane Betty is hitting Key West hard. Sheriff Stella Gomez is working to coordinate rescue and relief efforts, her brother in the Coast Guard is going to suicidal lengths to save people, and Starfire trying to carry as many people as she can to the safety of the shelter in the school. Will she be able to save everyone before running out of power? And why is a giant monster stalking the island?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice straightforward story by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, along with clear, charismatic art from Emanuela Lupacchino.


All Star Section Eight #2

While Six Pack obsesses about getting Green Lantern to join Section Eight — and staging a battle between a bunch of Green Lanterns (most of his team) and Star Sapphire (Guts in a bikini) to attract the attention of the Guardians — we also get the origin of the new Dogwelder, as well as Bueno Excellente’s unrequited love for (ugh!) Guts.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of great stuff going on here — great writing and art plus fantastic crude and surreal humor. There are still some zingers on the superhero game, but it turns out Hal Jordan is a lot more on-the-ball than Batman was last issue.


Harrow County #3

Emmy and Bernice have stumbled into an ancient graveyard and soon find themselves surrounded by silent, flaming spirits. They escape the menacing specters, but soon find themselves facing a more tangible danger — the human townsfolk, looking to find and kill Emmy. Her pet haint leads most of them away, but her father still manages to find them. Insisting she must be the witch they’d executed 18 years before, he tries to kill her, but the haint’s physical form defends her, and Emmy resists the temptation to use her growing supernatural powers for evil. But there are much more dire creatures waiting in the woods for her.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Amazing art and writing, and a deliriously creepy atmosphere. I think this one’s going to be really, really outstanding.

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Closed for the Apocalypse


Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #9

Well, foo. It looks like the final issue of this series.

The Mighty Avengers have lost the legal right to call themselves “Avengers” — that’s the problem with having a half-dozen superteams that all call themselves some variation of the Avengers, right? They’re still kicking around new names — Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ daughter Danielle is partial to “Friend Force” — when they learn that the worst-case scenario has come to pass. Earth has one hour to live unless they can either find a way to work with the Ultimate Marvel universe to find a solution or destroy them — and it looks like destroying them may be the better option, since the Ultimate universe is attacking them with helicarriers.

Monica Rambeau makes a really good effort to blow the Ultimate Earth apart by hitting them as an energy particle traveling at the speed of light — but she loses her nerve because she can’t bring herself to destroy billions of lives. The rest of the issue focuses on superheroes trying to win the battle, trying to win their own personal battles, or just making peace with those around them — and we also meet plenty of normal people who are going through the same struggles. Is there anything that can save the Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s a little cosmic superheroism and a lot of street-level superheroism and a decent amount of normal people getting by, which always seemed like something this comic did pretty well. I’m disappointed the series is being cancelled — there are a lot of good characters in here who are a lot of fun to read, and I hope they all land in some new comics after Secret Wars wraps up.


Harrow County #2

Emmy has stolen away a haint’s skin — looks just like a skinned boy, and it can move around a little and talk a bit, and it’s thoroughly creepy. She hides him in her dresser drawer and discovers that all the scratches she’d gotten in the brambles have already healed up. But the townspeople are suspicious, and the haint’s skin is able to tell what the rest of it can hear. It eavesdrops on the people at the burned-out oak, and Emmy learns that they’re going to kill her because they think she’s the reincarnation of a murderous witch. Can Emmy escape, even with help from a friend?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Gloriously spooky and eerie. Wonderful characterization. Fantastic art, too. If you love horror comics — and classic rural horror stories — this comic is something you’ll want to read.


Nameless #4

The man called only Nameless is undergoing a host of nightmares — falling down an endless chasm, being chased my living, madness-inducing froth in an immense meteor, being dismembered by space monsters, living through an alien invasion that drives everyone murderously insane. But they’re just nightmares, right? Is one of them real? Are all of them real?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mind-cracking horror with mercilessly detailed artwork. Man, I love Grant Morrison writing superhero stories, but this reads like he’s enjoying it more than he’s enjoyed anything in a long time.

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Skin Deep


Harrow County #1

Come on, now, with a cover like that, there’s really no chance I’d be able to resist this new horror comic by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, right?

After the citizens of Harrow County capture and prepare to destroy a formerly helpful witch who’d turned to dark forces to increase her power, she pronounces a curse upon them — even while she burns from a noose, she promises to return someday and see all the townspeople again. Years later, we meet up with Emmy, a country girl about to turn 18. Even with her father’s livestock dying mysteriously around them, she’s got a way with animals, sometimes bringing them from the brink of death. She feels stifled inside her home but gets a greater sense of freedom from the woods outside her house, even though she fears the old rotten tree not far from her window. And sometimes, she sees haints out in the woods, and she wonders what they have in store for her.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A wonderfully slow but creepy story, alongside glorious art that mixes the beauty of nature with the monsters hiding in the dark. This first issue promises some epic horror — get on board early.


Injection #1

And another new horror series, this time by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire, the creative team behind the amazing first set of issues of the recent “Moon Knight” relaunch.

We start off with Professor Maria Killbride, a patient at grim Sawlung Hospital, a woman with a cane and a overpowering with for a sandwich. The company she used to work for is calling her back into action to investigate a missing persons case, whether she wants to or not. The former members of her team haven’t quite landed in insane asylums yet, but they’re not the people they used to be — Brigid Roth is unhappily running high-end tech support, while Robin Morel has tapped into powers he’s not even sure he wants to deal with. And Maria finds herself exploring a very large space that shouldn’t be there at all.

Verdict: Thumbs up, at least for now. It seems interesting, but I can’t say I can really tell you what’s going on. But it is a first issue, after all, and sometimes, these take a little time to get cycled up to top speed.


Lady Killer #5

Josie has a plan to deal with the Company targeting her for elimination, with the help of fellow assassins Ruby and Reinhardt. But does Josie have a chance to prevail against the deadliest killers on the Company’s payroll?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and story, lots of bloodshed, lots of keen ’60s flavor. And it’s even left open at the end for a sequel…

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