Tuesday, September 9, 2008

UFOs, mysticism clash in 'Black Harvest'

Black Harvest (2007)
Story and Art: Josh Howard
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

An investigative journalist (for a blog) comes to a small Texas town to witness an annual display of lights in the skies that have elevated the area to a Roswell-like reverence among UFO enthusiasts. When he almost runs over a young woman in the road--a young woman who vanished without a trace three years ago and now has returned under equally mysterious circumstances--he finds himself tangled in a web of treachery, deceit and unholy bargains where the payment is coming due.

"Black Harvest" is an excellent graphic novel from the pen of writer/artist Josh Howard, the creator of the zombie series "Dead@17" and "The Lost Books of Eve". Like those other works, this book incorporates touches of Christianity (although less than "Dead@17" and far less than "The Lost Books of Eve") into a creepy tale that will remind you of "The X-Files" television series at its best.

Howard continues to refine both his writing and artwork since the debut of "Dead@17" and here he delivers a perfectly paced story where he creates a dark world where aliens, supernatural horrors, secret socieites and dark secrets can and will consume entire communities. Howard's story is sharpened by skillfully written dialogue that gives each character a unique voice and personality, bringing them fully to life and making us care about their fates.

Unfortunately, while Howard does a fabulous job at building tension and juggling several mysteries, midirections and disparate elements that would clash and create a jumbled sloppy mess in the hands of a lesser creator (like what happened with "The X-Files" at its worst), he doesn't quite manage to deliver a finale that's worthy of the build-up. The end of the book is a disappointment and something of a cop-out. I was left asking myself "That's all?", but not in the way that had me wondering if there was going to be a "Black Harvest 2".

The weak ending aside, "Black Harvest" is a well-written, well-drawn book that will be an enjoyable read for anyone who likes a little dark conspiracy and strange beings from beyond with their horror fiction.