COFFIN HILL #2
Writer: Caitlin Kittredge
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Sometimes having too many books to read is a good thing. I usually lament my week behind or few days ahead existence. I know advance books are the envy of all, so I’m not asking for your crocodile tears, but it can be lonely being out of sync with everyone else. In the case of COFFIN HILL, though, it worked to mine and the book’s advantage.
Had I not read issues 1 and 2 back-to-back (even though I really really wanted to read issue 1 when it came out, but time would not allow for it) I probably would have joined in on the vitriol being spewed towards issue 1 a month ago. Distilling all the commentary down to its core, basically issue 1 reads very disjointed. Like a block of Swiss cheese, you wonder why there are such gaping holes in this story of a young witch who is trying to escape her past. We meet Eva Coffin as a Boston cop in 2013, a hero who just captured a notorious serial killer. Then we get a scene in her apartment where some shit is going down with a meth addict who shoots her. Then we get a flashback 10 years prior to when Eva was a fifteen year old at her wealthy family’s estate in Coffin Hill, Massachusetts. After causing a scene at a hoity-toity party we then see her in the woods with friends about to perform some kind of magic ritual. Then she’s bathed in blood. Jump back to now, somehow she was disgraced and forced back to her family home. While all this is askew, it is made plainly clear that Eva Coffin is a witch descended from Salem stock. Confusing, right?
Issue 2 starts to fill in some of the gaps, like what happened to her and her friends in the woods, why Eva was forced to go back to Coffin, what happened to the dreamy guy from 10 years ago who said “fuck this noise” when Eva and the rest of the gals began to perform their ritual and what happened at her parents’ party to cause Eva to run into the woods in the first place.
Basically, Kittredge is playing a game of Connect 4 instead of checkers. She’s slowly and deliberately plunking in pieces as the story goes on as opposed to vomiting it all in front of us at once and then moving the pieces. Some will say this is the very nature of comics, and I’m inclined to agree. However, I also see the naysayers’ point. In a different time, when new #1’s weren’t littering the shelf each Wednesday, this approach would have received much less flak. In today’s age, though, we need a clearer delineation between series, miniseries and books that should just be outright graphic novels. I understand the financial boon that comes with trade writing. It’s a glorious double dip for publishers: get some money on the floppies and then sell the trades to those who don’t need instant gratification. It’s basically the same battle being waged between cable and services like Netflix. Seriously, from a cost perspective no one should have a cable package. Likewise with comics, since everything comes out in trade these days the virtue of the floppies is one part elitism and another part ritual. In days of yore, only the most special books hit trade; publishers today rely on this Pavlovian conditioning even though practically everything is packaged in volumes for later consumption.
As long as we are willing to oblige and feed this pattern we need to stop bitching when writers lift the kimono to only nutsack height. All books are written for trade these days, and ultimately it will boil down to your patience level whether you will let a story breathe. I truly don’t fault Kittredge for her choice to reveal in increments. Yes, some writers can find a better balance, but we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater simply because a writer veers in another direction.
Inaki Miranda’s art also helps to keep my interest in COFFIN HILL. His pencils of characters are crisp and differentiated while leaving the mysterious woods of Coffin Hill a blurry nightmare of foreboding.
We need a good witch book. I haven’t seen too many in recent years that don’t obscure the magic with slutty battle armor and phallic swords or turn it into a CW soap opera. COFFIN HILL plays on many levels of the inescapable. Eva is trying to move away from her family’s legacy of the dark arts, her own past where she committed atrocities (maybe) in the woods surrounding her house, and an evil destiny waiting to devour her on that same hallowed ground. She’s also a female character with strength who doesn’t bludgeon it with a chip on her shoulder…in the now, at least.