Indie Comics Spotlight: Harrow County, The Fox, Bloodshot Reborn

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Harrow County #1

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“The folk of Harrow County put the witch to death…but the witch did not die easily.”

Crystal Lake. Elm Street. Haddonfield. These are all locales that boast entities hellbent on inflicting as much pain and misery as possible on their inhabitants with what would seem to be no apparent remorse. Dark Horse Comics has one more locale they’d like to add to the list in Harrow County, introduced to readers in Harrow County #1. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Tyler Crook.

Emmy always knew that the deep, dark woods surrounding her home crawled with ghosts, goblins, and zombies. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she learns that she is connected to these creatures—and to the land itself—in a way she never imagined.

If Crook’s cover wasn’t indication enough, Harrow County #1 is delving into some pretty dark territory. The most apt comparison to Harrow County #1 would Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock, but Bunn isn’t taking it down the same path. In Harrow County #1, the setting is more akin to the aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials, where some of those accused (right or wrong) promised to take revenge for their punishment. Bunn’s pacing is very deliberate, as he peels back layers of Emmy’s life slowly in a way that affords her discovery alongside that of the reader. The dialogue boasts a southern charm to it that immediately sets the tone for the players involved, as well as a setting that’s so far removed from “civilization” that the thought of backwoods witchcraft occurring seems plausible. And Emmy’s characterization is extremely insightful, as Bunn manages to tell the reader everything he wants you to know about her in the first issue through her actions and interactions with others.

Crook’s cover for Harrow County #1 is eerily terrifying, evoking a sense of dread captured within the issue itself. The use of watercolors is especially profound in Harrow County #1 in that it gives the book a series of depths to it that mirror the hidden secrets of Harrow County itself. Each panel seems infused with centuries of evil pervasive throughout the county, all of which are easily recognizable by Crook’s harsh watercolors. And despite the uniform nature of watercolors in general, Crook manages to make each setting feel distinct from the others through different textures and color choices. Pages featuring the forest for instance look serene, belying the evil that clearly resides within.

Harrow County #1 shows potential of being a pretty terrifying series and it definitely starts off by giving readers a glimpse at the evil hidden within. Emmy is a somewhat typical character in that she has no idea what’s coming up for her, but the fact that she does show some inkling that something strange is afoot is refreshing. Bunn’s dialogue is sharp, exchanged between characters in a way that gives the reader enough to know what’s going on and infer the insidiousness yet to come. Crook’s illustrations are almost frenetic in their approach, blending defining lines and watercolor finishes in a way that gives every character an almost distant presence reflected by their facial expressions. Harrow County #1 is a book that will likely turn a lot of heads and is worth checking out if you’re looking for a new horror comic to read.

Harrow County #1 is in stores May 13.


The Fox: Fox Hunt #1

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“I wake up craving an Ibuprofen the size of a city bus. They should make those. I’d keep them in business.”

When you’re a superhero, things rarely go as planned. Some superheroes are always at the ready for the unplanned, even going so far as wearing the costume underneath their “normal” clothes. The Fox is one such superhero and he gets another go at the weird in The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 from Dark Circle Comics. The issue is written by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid, illustrated by Haspiel, colored by Allen Passalaqua and lettered by John Workman.

When a billionaire philanthropist prepares Paul Patton Jr’s home town for demolition, our hero is sent on assignment to photograph the event. But what strange force lurks in the shadows and why will it take Paul’s alter-ego, The Fox, to stop it? The answer is the beginning of a deadly fox hunt and you won’t believe what happens next.

Unlike other works from Dark Circle Comics (Black Mask comes to mind), The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 has a much lighter tone. Sure, Haspiel and Waid have created a story that boasts villains, nefarious deeds and a hero in peril, but it’s presented more as a reminiscent retrospective of what used to be. This method of narration is extremely powerful and allows Haspiel and Waid to effectively introduce new readers to who The Fox is and why he’s also known as a Freak Magnet. And doing the issue in the old “Marvel style” gives Waid the opportunity to expand upon the illustrations, as Haspiel told the story through illustrations first. There’s never really a point where the story feels off-kilter–despite an off-kilter hero–proving that the team of Haspiel and Waid is very formidable when it comes to The Fox.

The Fox bounds through the pages with a litheness captured beautifully by Haspiel. He demonstrates an adeptness at rendering characters rife with bulging muscles and sharp, angled faces. Patton seems to be most comfortable as The Fox (despite his pangs of retirement) and Haspiel demonstrates him as such. Various poses by The Fox in particular cut sharply against the backdrops of the city and Haspiel’s portrayal of a fight against a seemingly invisible foe sells the disadvantage for The Fox. There’s a tonal shift in color about halfway through the book, with Passalqua’s transition to darker shades effective at taking the reader inside an abandoned storefront alongside The Fox. 

The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 is a pretty adventurous romp with a main character who never seems to have a normal day…or life for that matter. Part of the allure of the property is the duality of superhero and regular person, which shines through in the issue. Haspiel and Waid’s story flows well in an evenly paced manner. Haspiel’s illustrations are relaxed and demonstrate an intuitive approach to The Fox and his world. The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 is an enjoyable comic that doesn’t really take itself too seriously.

The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 is in stores now.


Bloodshot Reborn #1

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“Who was Bloodshot? Red eyes. White skin. Guns…lots of guns.”

Stripping a character down to its core character tells you everything about them. Batman is a justice seeking detective, Superman is a being using his power for bettering mankind and Wonder Woman is a fierce warrior defending her people. If you take away their abilities, their core personalities still persist. Bloodshot is another character like that–take away the nanites and you’ve likely still got a man willing to be a hero. InBloodshot Reborn #1 from Valiant Entertainment, he demonstrates a desire to return to form. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Mico Suayan, colored by David Baron and lettered by David Lanphear.

Bloodshot’s nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit – a private contractor trafficking in violence – very well. Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self-imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving headlong into the violence that nearly destroyed him.

Opening up Bloodshot Reborn #1 with a quick rundown of Bloodshot’s history is actually very smart, as it gives the reader plenty of context for the remainder of the issue. Lemire’s tale focuses on Ray Garrison’s post-Bloodshot life as he struggles to come to grips with no longer being the killer he was created to be. In that regard, Lemire does a fantastic job building Ray up to be just a regular guy with a host of PTSD related issues as a result of his former life. The presentation of the gunmen act as a catalyst for Ray to seek out his abilities once more, but it’s likely that he won’t be able to get them as easily. And that’s the beauty of Lemire’s script–it shows a man seeking to regain his former abilities, even if it’s not that straightforward and he’ll likely resent himself afterwards.

Bloodshot’s look is very distinctive, so it’s a credit to Suayan that he makes Ray recognizable as such in some ways. Ray wants to get away from his past and Suayan illustrates him with the same muscular physique and an absence of white and red. Ray still shares with Bloodshot some of the same glowers that struck fear into the opponents of Bloodshot before he descended upon them, only now they’re directed at things like squeaky doors. All of Suayan’s illustrations offer interesting angles for the characters, all of whom reflect heavy shading and a ferocity that underscores the intensity of those characters. Baron’s colors are dark and moody, adding an appropriate level of tension to the issue.

Bloodshot Reborn #1 is a very strong first issue that provides more insights into Bloodshot as a man and less as a machine. Despite his abilities, he’s always longed for something different, yet when he gets it, he realizes that it was those “gifts” that allowed him to help those in need. Lemire’s dialogue is very grim and concise, effectively moving Ray to a different place emotionally that may steel his resolve for attempting to becoming Bloodshot again. Suayan’s illustrations are equally as dark and showcase a transition from his mundane routine to the actions that will be executed by Bloodshot. Bloodshot Reborn #1 is a strong issue that breathes some new life into a familiar character, promising pretty interesting things coming up in the series.

Bloodshot Reborn #1 is in stores now.


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