The second half of the saga of Harrow County was again compiled into four trade paperbacks. I had an unexpected delay getting to them, but I was excited to see how the story ended.
The previous collection ended with Emmy’s family sent away by her powers, to no one knows where. The first two chapters find Carla Speed NcNeil returning as guest artist, and it immediately goes deep into family history. Emmy gets to know the Abandoned, a gigantic black monster with horns and four yellow eyes. Through him she learns much more about the family dynamics, a story which does not make any of the family members look good. In the end family leader/creator Malachi admits to transforming himself into the Abandoned, and he reveals that Emmy is not Hester returned: she is Amarylis.
Emmy begins coping with this knowledge, and the power over reality she might possess, but discovers hunters from out of the county after the monster. They don’t even know its name, or how dangerous it is, and she tries to warn them. When all but one are killed, he tells her that the hunters were tipped about the monster by Kammi, the “sister” she had thought dead. Emmy recreates the dead hunters to deflect further interest in Harrow County, and sends the skinless boy back with them to bring back the doll that harbors Kammi’s spirit.
The Sketchbook in the back includes notes and character designs by Carla Speed McNeil; Cullen Bunn script pages with art process notes from colorist Jenn Manley Lee; Tyler Crook’s cover sketches; and Crook’s notes on his painting process
Someone is hunting the Harrow County haints (who Emmy has taken under her protection). She suspects Kammi, or humans sent by her, but is surprised to encounter her friend Bernice in the woods. The pair go to an old abandoned house to deal with a keyhole ghost: a ghost that has been trapped in a building for so long that the only way to see it is by looking through a lock. When they return to old witch Lovey’s shack, they find her dead.
At the funeral they quickly discover one result of Lovey’s death: the snakes that sprang from Hester’s evil which Lovey had collected in Mason jars have all escaped, threatening the townspeople. Under the influence of Emmy’s family member Odessa Bernice threatens the goblins (and other haints) and captures Emmy in a magic circle, ordering her to leave Harrow County. Fortunately Lovey’s ghost appears and explains that they’ve all been tricked. Emmy and Bernice are back on the same side. And they’ll need each other: the volume closes with Emmy’s family summoning Kammi back in the flesh.
Additional material includes a Tyler Crook sketchbook, and a Bestiary which explains the origins of four of Harrow County’s haints.
Kammi is back, and one of the first things she does is transform herself into the image of her sister Emmy, a trick she pulled back when she first came to Harrow County. She immediately goes after Emmy’s pa, holding off both Emmy and the skinless boy long enough to get her revenge. she goes after Bernice next, laying waste to Mason Hollow before Bernice challenges her.
Emmy finally defeats Kammi, and follows the ritual of eating her flesh to consume her power. She thinks she needs that power to face the the witch Hester’s return.
Hester does indeed return, and the first thing she does is visit the family meeting lodge. It was said to appear every ten years for a conclave, or during times of great auspice or tumult. But powerful beings could call it from the ether at their whim, which she has done. She means to finish off the entire family and take their powers.
Hester’s next stop is the town, where she takes control of the people using her demon snakes. Bernice is ready to fight, but finds herself betrayed by the goblins. The climactic battle between Emmy and Hester takes place in the air above Harrow County, then on the ground at the old hanging tree. Emmy finally understands that the family struggle has always been about power, and gives hers up, finally finishing Hester off for good.
It is a bittersweet victory. Harrow County is finally at peace, but Emmy heads out into the world without her magic. No bonus art this time, just heartfelt goodbyes from both of the creators. It may not be a happy ending, but it feels right.