“Coffin Hill” #2 by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda is a story about coming home, but for Eve Coffin, prodigal daughter of a line of witches, coming home means facing her past and her worst nightmare again.
Kittredge picks up the story with Eve at the gate of Coffin House, perched at the gate like a bird returning to the nest. Eve’s name itself is a biblical reference, and here her homecoming seems to reference both the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Fall of Man, but twisted and inverted. Eve will receive no welcome from kin or townfolk, and her intentions are to redeem herself rather than to be the root of another tragedy, for what intentions are worth. Additionally, the title of the story is “The Waters and the Wild,” a reference to a line in “The Stolen Child,” a poem by William Butler Yeats about Irish mythology and faeries folk stealing children. This allusion’s obvious echo in the plot is the unseen threat in the woods and missing teenagers.
In “Coffin Hill,” #2 Kittredge introduces Eve’s childhood friends and establishes the primary threat, although she leaves the most relevant details vague. The script overuses first-person textbox voiceovers for exposition, and as a result, the story feels too passive, because Eve’s voice and presence is always between the reader and the action.
While mysteries can be told in first-person flashback by an unreliable narrator, the event at the center of Eve Coffin’s supernatural education and ensuing guilt isn’t substantial enough (so far) to carry the suspense of the story. With her defiance of rules, her wardrobe and attitude and her melodramatic phrasing, Eve comes off more as an attention-seeking goth teenager than an adult or a survivor. The dragging out of suspense about the past and present thus feels not only manipulative but unjustified, and Eve’s deliberately cryptic narration feels like a tease instead of an extension of her guilt.
The conflict is predictable, and the characters and plot conform to stereotypes: wild rich girl, close-minded townfolk, poor white trash, stupid teenage kids in the woods and so on. These are all stock horror tropes and “Coffin Hill” #2 does not have a new spin.
Inaki Miranda’s art is strong on atmosphere but weaker on body language and facial expressions. Kittredge’s script aims for a plot shaped like a Barbara Vine mystery or a witchcraft-steeped version of “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Eve isn’t substantial or likable enough to bear the weight of a guilt-driven horror story, and part of her deficiency as a heroine is that her facial expressions are not complex enough to evoke sympathy or fascination. Her smooth face and glass eye seem limited to faces of anger, surprise or blank thoughts.
On the other hand, Miranda’s art makes for a lush, atmospheric world. His detail is selective and beautifully magnifies Kittredge’s symbolism with texture and mood, from the inky, loopy ironwork of the Coffin House gate on the opening page to the lacey web-like wooded landscape in the background of the last panel.
The climax of “The Waters and the Wild” is a sideways, double-page slide into a terrific scene of nightmarish swirl of blood and feathers. With a layout like this, it works that the threat is off-panel, and Miranda’s choice of sideways orientation is clever. Like gravity, the reader’s eye moves left to right and downward. The slide to the bottom panel feels faster, scarier, more inevitable due to the page layout. The chaotic panel compositions and de la Cruz’s liberal use of red also give the scene the rushed, unreliable feeling of disoriented eyewitness memory.
“Coffin Hill” #2 gets it right in the dream-like visuals and symbolism, but dialogue, characterization and action will need to become sharper for the story to maintain its grip on the reader’s imagination.