Harrow County: Hedge Music (#21 – 24) – Cullen Bunn

3 out of 5

I’m going to say it’s probably not a good sign regarding my engagement levels to a comic if something that’s intended to be a big deal has me nearly snoozing through its pages.  When I have what feels like a divisive opinion as such, I generally take to that wonderful gift of internet community to see whether or not fellow readers’ opinions align with mine, and more often than not, I’ll find at least a handful or POVs that support mine.  Along the Harrow County way, I’ve had confirmation of my feelings regarding the series’ peaks and valleys, but with this arc, while there seems to be agreement that the battle between friends Emmy and Bernice was a bit sudden and underwhelming, there still feels like there was a consensus of excitement leading up to it, as well as a What’s Next? Intrigue for the next arc.

But, as mentioned: for me this was a snooze.  My reviews for Harrow have been bi-polar, half wondering when the title will round the bend and resolve into something with Sixth Gun-ish appeal, and half wrapped up in Bunn’s folksy narration and the dreamy witch mythology.  At its worst, the title has felt like a waiting game – Emmy waiting in Harrow to find out if she’s a good witch or a bad witch – without much sense of stakes for whatever wars rage in the future, and at its best (unfortunately the rarity), its been a frightful tale of self-discovery.  More and more, I’m thinking the latter isn’t really on the menu.

Hedge Music has Lovey’s death (pinned on Emmy – though even Bernice doesn’t but that) spurring Bernice into action against Harrow’s haunts and her friend.  Which is potentially meaty emotional fodder, but instead comes across as a compressed and clumsy way of writing oneself out of a corner, I.e. Bunn has been fomenting this rivalry but he needs the girl in the same side.  The standoff comes so quickly that I sincerely wondered if I was somehow missing an issue that smoothed the transition from buildup (issues 21-23) to clash (24); we can perhaps appreciate Cullen sparing us dragging things out, but  the briefness also severely undermines the impact.  Snoozing.

Crook’s art is carrying this thing leaps and bounds, with his masterful colorful and depiction of believable childhood innocence – flipped to lightning-streaked skies and blood-dripping creeps with the turn of a page – adding weight to the porch-spun tone of the narrative.  And as written, these are not, individually, poorly done issues – but as an arc, and as a continuation to the slooowly gestating Harrow County story, they are somewhat unsatisfying.