Dark Horse Comics 2015
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Tyler Crook & Owen Gieni
Well there is something to be said about classic style horror stories and by that I mean ones that written by be engaging, thoughtful and use the readers imagination to make things worse with anticipation in the minds eye. Using a time gone by as the setting for this story when folks lived a simpler life and witches were common place, real or perceived, is something that I appreciate. Cullen manages to create a story here that is both wonderfully interesting and full of that creepiness which raises the hair on the back of your neck.
We open with the death of Hester Beck and the reasons why. It’s kind of classic she healed those that needed it but in return for her kind deeds there was a side of her that needed to be appeased, the darker side and it was that side the folks of Harrow County couldn’t accept. When you’ve got a healer or someone who helps the crops grow and the town prosper things can be overlooked but when children are seduced and babies go missing and monstrous creatures are her woodland consorts then things must end. Only a powerful witch isn’t going to go away easily and Hester claims she’ll be back.
Tyler does this wonderful thing with his artwork here, there’s a simplicity and even innocence to it that is contrasted by seeing the tree Hester was killed on years later that is completely creepy and gives off the feeling of death and doom. The tree itself is this gorgeous image of contradiction and it’s powerful to behold. Emmy is the star of this story and she’s almost eighteen years old and her farmhouse overlooks the old tree. While at times she appears closer to twelve than eighteen there’s a definite childlike innocence to her and she has aww shucks wonder of the young.
In her dreams, or nightmares, Emmy sees the tree and it speaks and it’s scares her. The gaping hole supposedly where lightning struck killing the tree she sees teeth and a mouth and all she remembers is what the tree says, Lies! I’m completely enraptured, enthralled and living for this tree and the way Tyler uses it as a character in the story. It really is haunting and ever present and his work somehow exudes it’s power to the reader.
I’m such a huge fan of Cullen’s work and this one may be his most ambitious and mesmerizing work yet. The ever present threat that Hester’s comeback prophecy will come true and Emmy’s as yet unclear connection to her rule what her father says and does. The little pieces we get here too suggest that there is much more to this extraordinary young woman than meets the eye. You can’t do much better with the writing than this it draws you in, captures you in its spell and takes your mind where it wants to go and whether or not that’s the right place to go doesn’t matter. Emmy’s questioning and what her Pa knows and tries to dismiss will come to light soon enough but in the meantime this is superb. All we can tell is that he fears for her as much as for Hester’s prophecy.
How this part ends though wow yeah personally I would’ve made a mess in pants and it’s not something you want to miss.
Owen Gieni illustrates a short story in the back about why they no longer use Kettle Creek for Baptisms anymore. It’s just a one page deal but boy does he work magic on the page he’s grown so much as an artist and this was just lovely to see. Also it leaves you with an impression that something doesn’t want anyone Baptised period.
Reading this issue made me feel like I did when I read Anne Rice’s the Witches back in the late eighties early nineties. Drawn into a world you don’t understand, are sometimes afraid of but too seduced by what’s happening to turn away.