The town of Jericho, Texas may seem like a quaint little rural town but it holds weird and terrible secrets. When a girl who vanished mysteriously three years ago reappears with no memory of her missing time, an investigation begins that will bring Jericho's dark secrets to light. This is the premise of "Black Harvest" a six-issue mini-series beginning this November by writer/artist Josh Howard and published by Devil's Due Publishing. CBR News spoke with Howard about the mini-series.
The protagonist of "Black Harvest" is Zaya Vahn, a 19 year old girl who reappears after mysteriously vanishing years before. Zaya has no memory of her missing years. The only clues to what happened to her are etched into her skin: the word "repent" is carved into her stomach and a tattoo of angels bowling adorns her chest. The mystery deepens when Zaya begins to inexplicably manifest what might be pyrokinesis, the ability to set things on fire with your mind
"She was once a fairly normal teenage girl, but she's been missing for nearly three years, so she's definitely not the same," Howard told CBR News. "Whatever happened to her during that time has changed her profoundly."
Zaya's family has also changed profoundly during her disappearance. "Her mother and father both mysteriously died during her absence-- the father while driving under the influence, and her mother by apparent suicide. Her only surviving relative is her disabled aunt, who is not equipped emotionally or physically for Zaya's return.
Where Zaya's been is just one of the mysteries of "Black Harvest." "Zaya is found and her return begins to bring to light the circumstances of her disappearance and who was behind it and why," Howard said. "Also, there is this mystery regarding the Jericho Lights, an unexplained phenomenon that occurs every year just outside of town, which may or may not be connected in some way."
The mystery of the Jericho lights brings another of the book's central characters to town. "Daniel Webster is the guy who finds Zaya. He's a young guy who has this fairly popular blog on the internet about UFOs and the paranormal, and he is coming to Jericho to investigate the Lights in an effort to land a big story," Howard explained. "The story he gets is a lot bigger than he ever imagined."
As they investigate both mysteries, Zaya and Daniel will learn a lot about this small rural town in west Texas called Jericho. "On the surface it may seem like your average Texas town, but the people there are not your average Texans. The background of the town will be revealed over the course of the series, and it ain't pretty."
Jericho's inhabitants have mixed feelings about Zaya's return. "Certain members of the community have a very interesting reaction to her return," Howard stated. "In fact, no one really seems too happy about it."
Like the title suggests "Black Harvest" is a very dark story. According to Howard, the beginning of the story has a dark tone and it only gets darker as secrets are revealed and the mysteries of the book deepen.
Howard said that "Black Harvest" was inspired by two things. "One being the constant coverage of missing kids on the news, the Elizabeth Smart case in particular. The circumstances around that (plus the fact she was found alive) I thought were pretty bizarre," Howard explained. "I was also doing some research regarding UFOs and paranormal phenomena and wanted to play around with some of the ideas and theories I was kicking around in my head that I don't think have ever really been explored before in comics."
Howard has created a new setting to tell stories in with "Black Harvest" and he plans to keep the door open for future stories set in that world. "I have constructed it so that I will be able go back and do more once it's over," he said. "But it does have a fairly definite end in this initial series."