It’s always a conflicting situation when you’re a fan of an author, but have to write a negative review of one of their works. I love Caitlin Kittredge. I think she’s a phenomenal writer and one of those people that I just wanna take out for ice cream (unless she’s lactose intolerant). However, I also want to ignore the fact that Coffin Hill exists.
I picked up the first volume of Coffin Hill, Forest of the Night, a few days after it got released by Vertigo. I drove down to Pulp Fiction here in Culver City, my fingers itching to get a hold of a horror series that didn’t revolve around vampires or zombies, and almost bounded up to the register. The cashier looked down at my find, frowned, and said, “This series isn’t going anywhere. No one is buying it and, the ones who have bought it, came back pissed.” I shrugged him off, telling him that I was just stoked to find a horror comic written by a lady and one that focused around witchcraft and the creepy crawlies that lurk in the forest.
Having finished the first volume, I kinda wish I would have listened to him. There is so much potential for the story, but there’s also that unwanted feeling that Kittredge doesn’t really have a plan in mind when she’s writing this.
Coffin Hill focuses on the Coffin clan, a family whose heritage dates back to the Salem days and, yes, they are all witches. Witchcraft is awesome; there’s something terrifying about dark magic and the power held within one’s fingertips and the chemistry of the earth. Coffin Hill would be awesome if it just didn’t spend so much time on the bitchiness and drama of the core characters.
It’s obvious that Kittredge has had success within the young adult audience with her Iron Codex series, because the interactions between the protagonist, Eve Coffin, and her acquaintances scream high school bullshit. In one of the many storylines that just kind of disappear, Eve is a pretty bangin’ police officer in Boston who brought an end to a serial killer and everyone celebrates her. After the congratulations fade away, Eve slinks back to her apartment where she finds some of her old friends fighting and then… Eve gets shot and that storyline is never brought up again. A few side characters mention the fact that her eye is all fucked up now, but that’s about all the audience is given.
So we move on.
The Coffin family is either the pride or armpit of the town, depending on whom you ask. When a couple of kids go missing in the Coffin Hill Forest, Eve decides to help solve the mystery, seeing as to how she and some friends have experienced the evil of the forest firsthand. One of her old boy toys, Nate Finn, is a rookie police officer investigating the missing children case so, of course, they fight and yell and sleep together and… yeah. He seems to be just another pretty face that adds vague background information to the otherwise useless story.
I tried to read the volume with an open mind, knowing that there will be more issues coming out within the upcoming weeks, but it was so difficult not to groan and cringe with the turn of every page. The only aspect of the story I feel confident labeling as “horror” is the fashion shown in the flashback sequences. The story has everything great, modern witchcraft lore could need: mental hospitals, a family drenched in black magic, a creepy forest. But it seems that they all take a backseat to the supposed love triangle and decade-old high school drama. Eve’s own magic is merely flashed in a few panels, while her old friend, Mel, is the magical antagonist. Their ultimate climax is all of one page, and an utter letdown at that. Well, it’s not fair to call it an “utter letdown.” I suppose it depends on if you’re a fan of a bunch of naked teen girls surrounding a dark demon for a centerfold of the comics.
I won’t say the entirety of Coffin Hill is a disappointment. Inaki Miranda’s illustrations are breathtaking and phenomenal. You may recognize his name from the Fairest series or his appearance in the Judge Dredd Magazine. Miranda has a way of capturing the unsettling scenery of Coffin Hill Forest and, I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the facial expressions accurately portray the tone of the dialogue in a way Miranda is able to accomplish.
With Issue 8 coming out in June, I may continue to keep up with the story, merely to see if the storylines that got dropped in Volume 1 will get tied up, in one way or another. Otherwise… well, it seems that Willow Rosenberg just may be the most powerful dark witch in existence. I’d like to see her duke it out with Eve Coffin, though that wouldn’t be fair to Eve.