Hinterkind & Coffin Hill: Vertigo in 2015

Hinterkind was a recent Vertigo “ongoing” series that made it as far as 18 issues (ending in May, 2015). There are three TPB collections.

Hinterkind 1After reading the first issue via Comixology months ago, finally getting to Hinterkind Vol. 1: The Waking World (Ian Edgington, writer; Francesco Trifogli, artist). It’s a great dystopian concept, with humanity the endangered species. The mutated wild animals are bad enough, but the real threat comes from the ancient magical creatures (faerie, trolls, ogres, goblins, fauns…the whole nine yards).

I like the way that ties the series in with classic Vertigo like The Books of Magic. Trifogli’s art even reminds me a bit of Peter Gross, but rougher. Some of his facial expressions don’t ring true to me, which is distracting. Maybe it will grow on me.

Hinterkind 2Hinterkind Vol. 2: Written In Blood continues the saga.  I have to report up front that Trifogli’s art never did grow on me. It’s really rough, so much so that some panels look like unfinished layouts that were left unfinished and colored and lettered that way. Fortunately his panel layouts and general storytelling skills are good, so the story carried me along anyway. With the second collection the tone of the series clearly settles into a kind of medieval political/military struggle, with magical creatures in place of human nations.

The major power players are the Sidhe (the faerie) and the Vampire Nation (invaders from Europe, because the North American vampires were dispersed before they could organize). The fay also have a major internal court political struggle to deal with. So there are a number of players, even though the focus always shifts back to two groups with humans that are on the run. They are trying to reunite, as well as warn the others about the looming danger.

I’m interested enough to read the third collection to see how it all comes out. But I have to say that the series is hampered by a profusion of unlikeable characters. The magical ones tend to be selfish and brutal: and they all regard humans as nothing more than cattle, which is unattractive from the human perspective. The humans are somewhat heroic, but they’re basically pawns in larger events.

Hinterkind 3Hinterkind Vol. 3: The Hot Zone wraps up the series. It opens with the titular two-issue story arc, which finally explains how the Blight that nearly wiped out the human race began. Those issues are so interesting, and move so fast, that it’s a shame the story waited until Issues #13-14 to be told. If more of the series had been like this, it might have had a longer run.

After that it’s a bit of a mad dash to the series conclusion. This shows mainly in the Vampire Nation being relegated to a mention near the end. Clearly the creators had intended to do a lot more with those characters, given their significance in the previous collection. The war that erupts is between the Sidhe and the brutal Skinlings, a confederation of rougher Hinterkind like ogres and trolls.

Things aren’t going well for the Sidhe, but they have a secret ally, Tiamat, the last dragon. When candidates for Dragon Rider are mentioned, the human girl Monday is nominated by the fairy queen–as she explains why, she reveals one last secret about humanity’s survivors.

Then the classic storybook ending: the day is saved, followed by some quick “happily ever after” wrap ups. Although it may be a tad rushed, it’s a satisfying series conclusion, and one that feels appropriate to the fantasy basis of the story.

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Coffin Hill 1Coffin Hill Vol. 1 – Forest Of The Night collects the first seven issues of the Vertigo “ongoing” series from writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist Inaki Miranda. The series made it to 20 issues, not a bad run in the current market (the last issue was cover-dated September, 2015). I’m just catching up with it, and wish I had tried it sooner.

Eve Coffin is the protagonist, heiress to one of New England’s richest families. But the family has a dark history in witchcraft, which Eve dabbled in as a troubled teenager. After a short career in the Boston police force–she became a hero after catching a serial killer, then was forced to retire after getting shot–she returns to the home she had run away from. In Coffin Hill she is quickly drawn into investigating a series of disappearances with a connection to the haunted Coffin Woods.

The series is full of flashbacks, principally to a defining event in 2003 with Eve and some friends in the woods. Something terrible happened, but the full impact doesn’t become clear until close to the end of the first arc. The final issue in the collection, “The Sole Unquiet Thing,” shows how Eve’s mother Eleanor became acquainted with the darkness in the woods.

It’s a really solid series, and has a definite “A Team” look about it, Dave Johnson’s covers alone mark it as a comic worth a second look.

The flashbacks can be a distraction. I thought they were well handled–but I’ll admit that the last issue in the collection came as kind of a relief, being almost all flashback. It was a question of figuring out who the characters were, since they looked different from their appearances earlier in the series.

Coffin Hill 2Coffin Hill Vol. 2 – Dark Endeavors collects issues #8-14 of the series. The first six issues contain the title arc, which makes the series appear more focused at first. But in fact there are still several stories being told in each issue: Eve’s involvement in a serial killer case while a member of the Boston Police Department (2012); events in Coffin Hill, Massachusetts (present day); and Eve in jail in Boston (present day). The events in 2003 in the Coffin Hill forest appear to have been covered completely in the first collection.

The big new development in this arc is the appearance of witch hunters, which puts Eve and the witches still living in Coffin Hill into very real peril. It also turns out that there was a witchcraft connection in the serial murder case. No matter how much she tries, Eve can’t escape her witch heritage.

Like the first collection, the seventh issue is devoted to a single flashback story, in this case Coffin Hill history from 1970. Series artist Inaki Miranda gets a break, with Ryan Kelly handling the art.

Coffin Hill 3Coffin Hill, Vol. 3: Haunted Houses
Caitlin Kittredge, writer; Inaki Miranda, artist; Eva De La Cruz, colorist
Vertigo Comics, 2015

Coffin Hill ends here with issue #20. In her Afterward writer Caitlin Kittredge says she had enough warning to end the story her way, and it does feel complete. This final story arc is all about putting the ghost of original Coffin Witch Emma Coffin to rest. Emma was the darkest and most powerful of the line, and for centuries she has only wanted revenge upon the angry villagers who killed her after she preyed upon them for years. She has always reached into the living world, but her power has grown sufficiently that the veil between this world and the next has grown extremely thin.

Current Coffin Witch Eve Coffin has been reluctant to assume the mantle, but when her ancestor starts killing her friends she quickly comes to grips with the situation. With the help of some of the ghosts, she figures out a way. In the course of that she uncovers a great many Coffin Hill secrets–as do her friends on the Coffin Hill police force. The series ends with the new police chief (who had been an orphan) finding his birth mother, one of the few positive results. No seventh issue flashback this time.

This series really was a classic ghost story, complete with haunted woods, haunted houses, ghosts, and witchcraft. I can’t remember the last time I read one of those. Although I can imagine the series going on for longer, what we got was a very good read.

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About marksullivan5

Librarian, Jazz musician, comic book fan
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