Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer
Written/Created by David Crownson
Illustrated by Courtland Ellis
One of the joys of attending New York Comic Con this year was discovering new to me books. I spotted Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer by the large booth banner and, with that concept, who could resist? I bought all five current issues autographed by creator David Crownson.
Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer Concept
When I asked Crownson what inspired the book, he said, “I wanted to write a book where Harriet Tubman kills racists.” And, yes, that high concept is incredibly satisfying but the comic takes this it and adds a cast of characters to care about, incredible cinematic action, and a subplot that threads through all five issues leading to an eventual confrontation between Harriet and the Big Bad, a vampire bounty Harriet.
The first issue begins with the escape of a family from slavery that quickly goes awry with the appearance of vampire slave owners. When all seems lost, Harriet appears to save them. It’s an effective way of introducing Harriet and her mission, especially when we care about the family’s fate so much. I was worried this would end the way many horror plots end, with one of the family members being killed but the only people dying turned out to be the villains. So far.
It’s not always easy to take a high concept and create a fully realized world. But the world of Harriet, demon slayer, adds in layers with each issue. There are not only vampires that exist in this world, there are also werewolves and other supernatural creatures. Harriet’s made the mistake of becoming too visible in this world and soon she has a bounty on her head.
That means all manner of supernatural creatures come calling to collect, putting the family she’s trying to save in danger once again. The main villain, the bounty hunter, is introduced at a meeting of slaveowners. They’re human and naturally not-so-inclined to trust a vampire. That confrontation is darkly humorous, especially as it’s clear our villain cares not for humans at all. He cares about the chase and collecting the bounty and Harriet’s the best quarry he’s experienced in a long while.
The family that opens the book includes a young girl and her parents. Even without knowing Harriet will show up, I’d still have enjoyed reading their escape. There are snatches of humor and bickering as they decide on the best plan, and the girl, NAME, is endearing. They’re the audience, dropped into a world that is suddenly more dangerous and weird than they ever expected.
There’s also X, Harriet’s irrepressible white adopted son, who is too impulsive for his own good.
As for Harriet herself, there are hints of her backstory in this fantasy world but it’s unfolding slowly, keeping part of her a mystery, including how she escaped, her work in Baltimore, and how she became familiar with the supernatural world.
Verdict: Buy Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer!
This is one of those stories where the promise and the eye-catching covers are more than equaled by the story within. It should be a prestigious AMC miniseries. Make it so, universe!