I bet you were expecting a Rat Queens post. I don’t blame you. I yearn, too. But, I’ve decided to ration and, in my rationing, plan said post and all my future Rat Queens posts. So, for now, I give you a review and wisdom I garnered after I read Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge (writer) and Inaki Miranda (artist).
I felt a lot like the girl in the above picture after I read Coffin Hill. Instead of a knowing smirk and gouged out chest, I sported a pained grimace and felt pain as if my eyes had been pecked at in shallow, dull, and slow pokes. No, I’m not a fan.
Sorta spoilers up ahead. I’d prefer it if you considered this all a fair-warning and not have my reading the thing without the benefit of saving someone else from it.
Fine. Whatever, it’s your life.
I’d love to give you a rundown of the plot before I go at this thing. But, honestly, I’m not sure what the plot is. I have doubts that the writer, even the editor, certainly the publisher know what’s meant to be going on. At its core, it’s a story about Eve Coffin who has a bloody past, troubled present, and disconcerting future. She inadvertently killed her best-friends when summoning the ghost of a witch, tries to right that wrong by confronting both her past and the actual ghost-witch, then gets arrested for her trouble for a crime I didn’t have the energy to go back to see if she was actually connected to. The timeline’s garbled.
I can let that sort of thing slide, though. Having read my fair share of comics, I can trust myself to be able to figure out when I’m no longer in “the present” when the writer forgets to tell me. What made this particular issue difficult to accept with Coffin Hill is that it’s compounded with how much the reader isn’t allowed to know. Now, I don’t mean that in the sense that we find out in the end and everything makes sense (ala Oceans 12). I mean, stuff is happening that we are, apparently, supposed to know already (ala Man of Steel. Don’t give me that look, you know what I’m talking about). For instance, she has crow feathers exploding off of her (when she’s angry, I guess?).
None of the other characters react to it. It’s just accepted. Yes, she’s a witch from a long line of witches. That’s not an explanation for it, though. She has no other witchy powers, except a talent for recitation. If all she’s got is inexplicable black feathers coming out of nowhere, well…if I were a real witch, I’d be kinda pissed. I mean, that’s it? However, this comic relies on Gothic cliche. Heavily. Crows, pentagrams, combat boots, mommy/daddy-issues, evil doctors, black eyeliner just everywhere.
The Gothic, as a culture, is a lot more complicated: history, literature, architecture, music, THEN makeup and fake leather. It depends on region, at that, and the type of Gothic.
It’s clear that there’s definitely some Poe and Hawthorne influence, but it’s extremely superficial in the sense only their most well-known works are homaged. Which leads me to believe that Coffin Hill is nothing more than a grab at the money of kids who are too new in the trend to know better. Like Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper, but a lot dumber (I just insulted those two with this comparison).
I went a long way to get to what I learned from reading this comic. Really, it just confirmed ideas I already had in play:
- Let’s say you have two options when it comes to a new experience (food, music, movie, TV show, book, whateves). One you have some optimism about, the other, you’re more doubtful. My conclusion/advice: Go with the one you’re (even slightly) pessimistic about first. Then move on to the thing that you’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy more. Here’s how I know: I had the rare pleasure of reading comics and not have to do anything else for a night, so I picked up my new birthday presents (I bought them with a gift card. I don’t want people thinking I’m ungrateful for someone’s choice for me. I can only blame myself here.) and read one right after the other. I shouldn’t have started with Rat Queens. They would have gotten the horrible flavor of Coffin Hill out if I had just waited. I don’t think my dislike of Coffin Hill spurs my love of Rat Queens, but my love of Rat Queens definitely lends itself to my dislike of Coffin Hill. This isn’t always the case, of course. However, I’ve been pleased more than displeased when I follow through with this course of action.
- Biggest, yet shortest: whenever all the womenlook alike, put the comic down. Switch off the TV. Break the DVD in half. Unless you rented it. It’s initial evidence that neither writer or artist (orcasting director, if that’s the case) cared enough to give personality to their characters.
I know that sounds superficial, but it’s basic rhetoric. Personality, even intent, can be seen first through dress and physical attributes. Not always a truth in real life (though, seriously consider how and why politicians dress the way they do, as well as celebrities during any red carpet event or photo-op), but it’s part of fiction, a big part. Think about Harry’s lightning bolt scar, or Luna’s radish earrings, or (a non-Rowling one) Tony Stark’s mustache. Each little physical attribute or accessory lends to the reader/viewer’s understanding of who that person is. If the creator doesn’t care enough about those things, then neither should you.
This comic had potential. It did. There are some cool ideas here, but nothing happens with them. It seems too much like the writer was afraid of writing herself into a corner (ala Stephen King’s It), so she backed off from what could have been very cool. Such as Eve’s history and talent with witchcraft or a pair of goth kids (one of them being Eve) becoming cops; there could be some interesting perspective in both those instances, sadly not utilized.
Anyway, there’s stuff that I’m sure will be explored in future issues, but not by me. I just hope the editor pays closer attention and the writer maybe rereads her work at least once.