Dark Magic – Coffin Hill Volume 1: Forest of the Night

Here is a project that made itself known during the exodus of talent during the big cull called the New 52.  Along with Hinterkind and FBP by talented individuals like Ian Edington and Simon Spurrier, Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kitteredge and Inaki Miranda is a bright spot in the new landscape called Vertigo.  The book is unlike any other at the publisher, and not necessarily in subject matter as it does feature magic, but in the way it is used. It also has a younger cast than most of its titles that is tailor made for today’s generation with slick artwork, a little nudity, a little action and a lot of tension and drama.  It is like a CW show with an R rating.

Coffin-Hill-3The book stars a girl named Eve Coffin who is much like Lisbeth Salander in the attitude department.  She’s a little goth, a little emo, a little punk and all witch.  She also happens to live in a large mansion surrounded by a haunted forest and comes from a long line of witches as well, so it kind of runs in the blood.  Eve is one of those bad girls that other girls secretly want to be and every guy wants to fall in love with.  She is rebellious, drinks and smokes (just a bit), is a little damaged (but not too much), has problems with her parents (like everyone) and is like all those girls you went to school with who are exactly like this.  Grow up she eventually does, just like everyone else, and she moves away, becomes a cop, gets a little fame and just happens to make her way back home to Coffin Hill after getting a feeling like she has to be there.  But going back draws her into an investigation involving a couple of missing kids that ties back into a past she thought she had left behind.

coffinhillPic-5This book is quite refreshing, especially as it comes from Vertigo and features a female lead as unique as Eve.  Eve is fascinating and she rings very true to life and someone you can empathize with whether you are man or woman and that all boils down to series writer Caitlin Kittredge.  Perhaps it takes a woman to write a really strong woman because that is exactly what we get in this book.  The other characters are interesting as well, like her childhood friend now grown up in Chief Finn and her mother who perhaps only ever wanted the best for her but never knew how to go about doing that.  The setting is in itself, just as much a character in the book as any of the people as it plays a huge part in the way it affects the populace and what they do and how they live.  Coffin Hill and the woods surrounding it are dangerous and mysterious and cause the townsfolk a lot of consternation and an innate mistrust of everything.  While all of our characters are explored thoroughly in the book, it is great to see that the setting is as well.

There are a lot of books our right now that deal with the subject of magic and the practice of it.  From Fables to Umbral to Star Mage and even books like New Avengers and Justice League Dark, magic still permeates the comic book world and provides fodder for many a story.  Here, the magic has to do with heritage and summoning’s and even possession when it gets out of hand, but it is all wonderful and really gets your mind thinking of things small and impossible.  Being a Vertigo book, that magic also gets a little gruesome and creepy at times.  The woods around Coffin Hill are not a place you really want to go and as you make your way through the book, the town and its denizens are not much better.  But no matter how much you think you want to stay away, a part of you wants to go anyway.  Magic is like the flame and we are the moths that are drawn to it.

tfaw_coffin1p3A lot of these feelings can also be attributed to series artist Inaki Miranda, though Kittredge also helped out a bit.  Her pencils are extremely crisp, clean and detailed with a very modern style that jumps off the page at you.  That style serves the book well as she brings the needed drama and horror to vivid life.  It also has a slight animated quality to it that really makes it stand out and with colours by Eva De La Cruz, the book really pops.  The one downside to the book was the final issue of the collection that served somewhat as an origin tale.  It was not bad per se, being drawn by Stephen Sadowski, but it are was so different than what had come before that it was a jarring switch from one to the next and just did not seem to fit the book at all.

With Coffin Hill, Vertigo has managed to recapture some of that magic that made it so special in the first place. It is beautiful in its darkness and it revels in it as do the characters at times.  This is no Riverdale with its shiny, happy people.  The characters are flawed, as is the town and everything around them. There are no jokes or hijinks, just magic and murder and if you read this book, you would not have it any other way.

4.5 out of 5

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