Thursday 18th December 2014,
Comic Booked

Review: Coffin Hill #4

Cal Cleary 01/18/2014 Reviews

Coffin Hill #4 Spoiler-Free Review

Caitlin Kittredge, Inaki Miranda, Eva de la Cruz

Four issues in, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about Coffin Hill.  The core idea is sound: Eve Coffin once did something awful, and returning home after years away is forcing the person she’s become confront the person she was as a teenager.  It’s a great premise for a horror story.  And there are times when the book edges up against something genuinely excellent.  Coffin Hill #4 features the series’ first major twist, and it’s a good one, relatively well-handled… but it’s also part of the first real moment of note, and we’re four issues in.  Doing a slow-build horror story is difficult on a monthly, serialized title, typically requiring fairly rigorous pacing, and pacing is perhaps the single biggest weakness Coffin Hill really has.

 

Artist Inaki Miranda is good with the atmospherics and great with the character design, but this issue called for a few brief action beats, and they were definitely a bit weak.  Coffin Hill #4 features, for example, Eve’s confrontation with an ancient evil from her own past.  It’s meant to be a tense, surprising stand-off, but once the surprise of the reveal wears off, so does the tension.  Miranda’s figures are stiff, the action is hard to follow, but it isn’t replaced by anything particularly creepy.

I’m also curious about some of Eva de la Cruz’ coloring decisions.  For instance, the colors of the book are pretty uniformly normal, even in flashbacks, except for a single page heavily tinted blue.  It’s not just because Eve is investigating with the police, as the color returns to normal on the very next page, when she’s still working with the same people.  It’s a brief stylistic flourish, but it contributes little of substance, and this is a book that could use a lot more of both style and substance.

There’s a lot to like about Coffin Hill, at least in theory, and the series got off to a reasonably strong start.  And, again, the core ideas behind the book are excellent.  But thus far, Kittredge and Miranda haven’t managed to really pull the story together.  Kittredge, a novelist before she got her start in comics, based Coffin Hill on an idea for a novel she had been kicking around for some time, and I think that may be part of the issue here.  Four issues in, we’re at a place that feels like a good endpoint for, say, issue two – this isn’t paced for monthly, serialized storytelling.

But is that because of genuinely slack pacing, or is Kittredge trying to tell a more measured story?  Whichever is true, I don’t think the story quite works just yet – even a measured story should have a confident flow, a rhythm to its storytelling, and I’m not feeling that rhythm in Coffin Hill.  The characters are solid – Eve is a good, grounding presence, familiar to readers (who are well-acquainted with cops in our fiction) but with a distinctly supernatural twist that works well, and Eve’s mother, Nate, and Mel all show some promise.  And the setting of Coffin Hill is similarly pretty solid, an old New England ambiance living in the oppressive shadow of something just a little bit off.  But none of it is quite cohering just yet, and the issue is compounded by the pacing issues of the series as a whole.  Coffin Hill isn’t a bad book, but I think it’s probably meant to be read as a trade.

My Rating: 2.5 / 5

Coffin Hill #4 preview page

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