Coffin Hill is equal parts Southern Gothic and Supernatural Noir wrapped in a Neo Gothic style. The story focuses on Lacey Coffin. Lacey was a gothic and angsty teen who ran away from home to escape the witchcraft heritage of the Coffin family. After starting a successful career in law enforcement, she gets involved with an undercover shooting incident which gets her suspended. With no place else to go, she heads back to her home town to confront her bloody past, demented family, and the cursed lands of Coffin Hill.
First of all, writer Caitlin Kittredge wanted to base Coffin Hill off of real life locations known for their spooky histories, such as Salem. When visiting these places, Kittredge noticed it wasn’t the people who made these haunted places eery; rather, it was the location that created the creepy and malevolent ambiance to these locations. With the disembodied voices, the sacrificed children, the Gothic architecture, and the swampy forest, Coffin Hill is clearly the lurking antagonist of this story. In addition, Kittredge also does a great job of pacing out this slow burn mystery. Kittredge never lets the audience peek behind the curtain, but she still manages to give just enough clues at the end of each chapter to make you want to come back for the bigger reveal. She also applies this method towards each of her characters. Instead of shoving their past and motivation down our throats in the first few pages of the series, Kittredge shows glimpses of past actions or interactions between characters to slowly build up who they are and were. Also, it’s fascinating how Kittredge treats the witchcraft. The supernatural is always done in such a way that by the time it’s finished one starts questioning if any of it really happened.
The other half of this story is the art itself. Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz perfectly express the mood and theme of this witchcraftian mystery. The characters retain the neo gothic look that had become synonymous with gothic movies and music about vampires and witches, even the protagonist has Marilyn Manson’s colorless eye. Miranda’s creative use of paneling is something to be admired. Not only will Miranda do things like letting his characters spill over into the next sequential panel but also he uses the panels to match the mindset and pacing of the story. When the story is in the calm sunlight, the panels will usually be in an 8 grid format. However, once the darkness of the supernatural or violence begins, the panels become more abstract or twisted in order to match the delirium. Cruz’s coloring also punctuates this dichotomy. When the setting is tranquil, the colors are warm and brightly highlighted by rays of golden sunshine. When the setting becomes disturbing, the colors are dark and blanketed with blue moon beams.
Kittredge sums up the protagonist in Lacey’s soliloquy , “When in nightmares you fall from a high place, you fight and struggle to wake up to remember the dream isn’t real, but the only thing that will wake you up… is hitting the ground”. By the time this volume wraps up, we see our haunted protagonist finally wake up into the bright reality, and we’re left wondering where can we go from here?
Overall, this story is fresh and brilliantly put together. For fans of the gothic supernatural or are still grieving over the loss of Hellblazer, Coffin Hill is definitely worth the read.