By: Caitlin Kittredge (story), Inaki Miranda (art), Eva de la Cruz (colors)

The Story: Good rule of thumb is if something requires you to shed blood, it’s not a good idea.

The Review: A lot of the new material coming out of Vertigo so far has landed in the sci-fi camp, though with various degrees of scientific purity, from the hardcore FBP to the fantasy-injected Hinterkind.  But the supernatural is Vertigo’s bread-and-butter, and its greatest works have invariably spawned from that genre. Coffin Hill, with its woods and witches, represents a return to that no-holds-barred magical realism which gave Vertigo its good name.

Under those terms, the debut issue plants itself firmly within that tradition, though it fails to break new ground.  The story Kittredge brings to us is very much inspired by the wannabe occultism that once peppered certain cliques of outcasts in high schools throughout the land.  Indeed, in flashbacks to Eve Coffin’s teenage years, her and her friends’ appearances are replete with punk and goth influences (clunky belts and lots of eye make-up), trivializing the kind of witchcraft involved in the series—at first.

Soon enough, Eve’s highly dramatic spell ritual goes from playacting to something very, very real, though its shape remains ambiguous.  The only description of the evil she has called down upon herself and her “coven” reveals nothing: “the dark things.”  Vaguely ominous, to be sure, but more vague than ominous, much like everything else about the Coffin legacy.  In trying to convince you to take the danger here seriously, Kittredge often comes across as trying way too hard, sprinkling Eve’s narrative with words like “blood,” “misery,” and “dark” in various forms: “dark side,” “darkness,” and of course, “dark things.”  It all culminates in one particularly excessive speech that arouses your doubt even as it attempts to engage you:

“It’s real evil, the kind that seeps into your skin, your blood, every part of you.  Evil that imbues the dirt and the trees and everything else.  That you taste in the air.”

Maybe you can consider this the equal but opposing reaction to the thoroughly blue-blooded tensions in the first half of the issue.  At first glance, the Coffins don’t seem to be guilty of anything worse than an ostentatious taste in luxury (on the Coffin matriarch’s choice of dress, a party guest remarks, “The Bride of Frankenstein does high society.”), making Eve’s antics more teenage rebellion than a sincere interest in the occult.  That’s not to say she doesn’t touch upon something real until that grim night in the woods; we see her open a locked door with no more than a touch of her fingertips, though it’s unclear whether she does so consciously.

But all this, intriguing as it is, involves an Eve who no longer exists.  Our story opens on a very different, more sober sort of woman, who retains her cool in the midst of all the chaos around her, whether it be her fellow cops, exuberant over her arrest of a serial murderer; a hostage situation in her own apartment; or the media circus greeting her as she’s discharged from the hospital.  It’s an exciting and confusing period of Eve’s life we’re seeing.  Having clearly gone through one transformation since her wild youth, she seems poised for another, and not necessarily for the better.

Miranda, having already proved his chops at blending beauty and horror in the Rapunzel arc on Fairest, is a great candidate to draw the hauntingly lovely visuals of Coffin Hill.  With De La Cruz putting an almost alabaster polish on everything, Miranda’s figures are almost too perfectly sculpted, with few of the defects and flaws of real human beings.  Still, the design and detailing are top-notch, giving flesh to Eve’s life where Kittredge’s script offers only bones.  Check out the young Eve’s bedroom, looking more like haunted boudoir than a living space.

Conclusion: Moves a bit too fast and tries a bit too hard, but the series definitely proves that it has a lot to offer, especially if you’re looking for something more traditionally supernatural.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I kind of love the idea of a teen punk deciding to go the straightest of straights and become a cop.  That evidently doesn’t stop Nate from continuing to wear a worrying amount of eyeliner, though.