Coffin Hill (Vol. 1): Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Misanda
Coffin Hill is a great new horror comic that is worth checking out in this first trade collection. It is part of the new wave of titles being put out by Vertigo, DC’s line of mature comics for adult readers. I tried reading Caitlin Kittredge’s Coffin Hill when it came out on a monthly basis, but it didn’t hold my interest, so, after two issues, I decided to wait until it was published as a trade. Many good modern comics read better as trades than they do as monthlies. Even Brubaker’s brilliant Lovecraftian-noir comic Fatale, except for a few issues in the middle of the series, doesn’t read as well on a monthly basis as does his earlier work such as Criminal. So, now that Coffin Hill is available as a trade, I can finally recommend it as a worthwhile comic book.
Coffin Hill is about a young rookie police officer named Eve Coffin who quits the force after miraculously recovering from being shot in the head. She returns to her family’s mansion of a home in Coffin Hill, Massachusetts and discovers that an old friend, Nate, is now Chief of Police Nate Finn in the small town. Against his wishes, she starts helping him as he searches for missing kids in the woods near her old home because these new cases are connected to what she did as a teenager in those same woods.
A good portion of the story consists of flashbacks to the rebellious young Eve who loved to shock her parents and cause trouble with her little gang of friends: Dani, Mel, and Nate, Mel’s boyfriend on whom Eve had (and still has) a crush. This story is a horror story because Eve comes from a long line of witches, and her decision to use some blood and cast some spells in the woods leads to disaster: Eve passes out, and when she wakes up, Mel is naked and covered in blood, and Dani has vanished, destroyed by whatever is out there that is still hurting teenagers in the present of the story. Eve convinces the grown-up Nate that she should help because she is responsible: “I woke what’s in the woods,” she tells him.
I am not a big fan of horror, and I will not watch any television shows or movies that are in that genre. However, I do like older horror by Poe and Lovecraft, and since I’ve been reading comics, I’ve been pleased to find that I like many horror comics: Hellblazer, Preacher, Sandman, and more. I tried one television episode of The Walking Dead and didn’t enjoy it (though I thought it was well done), but I do enjoy The Walking Dead comic book. Coffin Hill is in this category of excellent modern horror comics, and I want to recommend it both to fans of horror and to those who might not think of themselves as horror fans. I also like that Coffin Hill combines horror with my favorite genre fiction: Noir. Since Eve was a police officer and since she helps an old friend who is the Chief of Police, the comic is a police procedural, a subgenre of noir/crime fiction.
The comic also includes romance. When Eve and Nate meet again as adults, Eve still clearly has feelings for him, but he is not happy to see her even though he is obviously still attracted to her. It turns out that Mel has been placed in an insane asylum and hasn’t spoken a word since the night of the Dani’s disappearance. Nate obviously blames and still resents Eve for what she did, and he continues to visit Mel, his teenage girlfriend, on a regular basis. Eve, feeling guilty, finally visits Mel when she’s in town. The story gets even stranger when Mel leans over and whispers in Eve’s ear. The next day, after a decade, she comes out of her comatose state to return to Nate’s side. All is not as it first appears, however, and the story gets creepier and creepier with each issue.
Coffin Hill tells a complete story arc, so you will be satisfied when you finish reading this trade collection. However, I’m looking forward to reading more of this story. New issues are already coming out, and I might start reading them on a monthly basis now that I’m fully hooked. I can’t wait to find out what Eve Coffin does next.