Horror is hard to pull off, partly because there's something inescapably adolescent about the thrill of giving yourself goosebumps. But in Coffin Hill, novelist-turned-comics-creator Caitlin Kittredge totally owns the adolescent nature of spook-stories, presenting a tale of terror whose teenaged protagonists are the kind of gothy, screwed-up kids that are exactly the kinds of freaks who'd be willing to open the grimoire and unleash terror on the world.
We first meet Eve Coffin as a Boston cop who has just caught a notorious serial killer, only to be shot in the face by her roommate's dope-dealing roommate. From here, we're plunged into Eve's backstory, her youth as a gothed-out, outrageous teenager who is a perpetual embarrassment to her wealthy parents and their circle of decadent, drunken, groping friends.
But there's more to the Coffins than modern Gatsby disease. They are the end of a long line of witches who have lived in a spooky New England mansion for centuries, communing with something dark and ravenous in the woods. Something that Eve wants to make contact with, stealing the family's forbidden grimoire and bringing her messed-up pals out to the woods for some spooky seance-type fun — fun that ends with one friend dead and the other in an asylum.
Now, wounded Eve, with her glass eye, is back at the family manse, just as girls from the town start going missing in the woods. Girls who have something in common with Eve and her old coven, an obsession with the dark arts and dark mysteries.
The story is both gothic and baroque, with many twists and turns that are expertly woven through the narrative in flashbacks, some of them surreal, all of them with the prickling-nape-hair spookiness of the best horror.
Eve and her friends are pitch-perfect screwed-up subculture kids, expertly rendered by Inaki Miranda, whose work may be familiar from her work on Fables. If you loved Poppy Brite's Lost Souls and relish lying in bed at night, too scared to close your eyes lest you remember some dreadful scene, this is a book for you.