Short Cuts 59: Tales from Harrow County Volume 1- Death’s Choir; Sea of Sorrows; Road of Bones

Tales from Harrow County Volume 1: Death’s Choir
Cullen Bunn, script; Naomi Franquiz, art, chapter breaks; Tyler Crook, lettering, variant covers
Dark Horse Books, 2020

Ten years have passed since the end of the Harrow County series. Emmy left the county, but her close friend Bernice has taken over the stewardship of the supernatural forces there. World War II is in full swing, taking most of the young men away in military service. A series of funerals have left the residents especially susceptible to a new bit of magic: a siren call summoning the dead, calling to one another in the choir of the title. It’s an enormous procession of haints, and not all of them are friendly. So, in addition to fighting off some of the haints, Bernice needs to figure out the source of the enchantment so she can stop its nightly return. She forces a group of goblins to help, and is led to a neighbor who wants to reconnect with her dead son. Turns out that there was a bad bargain made–which Stephanie manages to reverse–but in the end she loses her friend, the goblin Priscilla. The story ends with a letter from Emmy, teasing an interesting next installment.  The collection concludes with a sketchbook from Franquiz (whose work manages to evoke Tyler Crook’s without copying it directly) and Crook’s variant covers.

Sea of Sorrows
Rich Douek, writer; Alex Cormack, artist; Justin Birch, letterer
IDW, 2021

1926, and the aftermath of the Great War left rich salvage available in the North Atlantic Ocean. This five-issue miniseries follows the crew of the SS Vagabond in their quest for a fortune in gold that went down with a U-boat. The treachery among the crew is dangerous enough, but it is nothing compared to the mysteries of the deep. From the first dive the sailors are beset by mysterious (sometimes fatal) events: some of them swear they have seen some sort of mermaid creature. Not only does her siren song call them back into the ocean, but she also reveals a body cavity full of needle-sharp teeth. Most of them have traumatic war memories, and she picks them off one by one. In the end the single survivor is picked up by another ship, bearing a gold ingot that can start the cycle up again. Bloody, dark, and terrifying, Sea of Sorrows tells a powerful horror tale. Cormack’s art creates an atmosphere of suspense and dread, although some of the underwater scenes are so literally dark that it can be difficult to make out what is happening on-panel.

Road of Bones
Rich Douek, writer; Alex Cormack, art & colors; Justin Birch, letters
IDW Publishing, 2020

More historical horror by the same creative team who made Sea of Sorrows.  This time the setting is the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma, and the year is 1950. Prison life is totally hellish: the story takes its title from the practice of burying the bodies of deceased prison laborers in the highway they are building (it is actually called the Road of Bones, but the official name is R504 Kolyma Highway). So it is not hard to see why prisoners would want to escape. But it’s kind of an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” situation, as escapees are faced with hundreds of miles of frozen tundra before reaching freedom. Roman Morozov is a political prisoner, serving 25 years hard labor for telling an off-color joke about Stalin (he also believes in Domoviks–fairy tale protectors–going so far as to leave food offerings for one).  Grigori is a gangster, and Sergei is a go-between. Once outside the prison the trio has trouble working as a team from the start. But the situation spirals into desperate hunger, then madness. Cormack’s art is almost a polar opposite from the other series: apart from the night scenes, the setting is often snowy white. A great contrast to the frequent bloody red.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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2 Responses to Short Cuts 59: Tales from Harrow County Volume 1- Death’s Choir; Sea of Sorrows; Road of Bones

  1. darkoutlands says:

    I’ve followed Cullen Bunn’s work for quite some time and it’s nice to see somebody covering his works for Dark Horse. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

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