A character coming back from a lengthy absence (or the dead, or a coma, or -- as in this case -- a stay in an institution) after a catastrophic event usually means trouble; in a horror series, that rule applies tenfold. The odds that Mel would return without consequence were nearly nil, and COFFIN HILL delivered on that promise this month by giving us a taste of the trouble we can expect.
This issue feels like a positive bounce-back from last month's minor villain fake-out; positioning Mel as a primary antagonist makes the story feel so much more connected than a mad scientist tucked away in a building far away from those creepy Coffin woods. Now that she's back in the picture, it feels like we're truly continuing the story that began in the woods in 2003, and definitively headed towards payoff. (It also doesn't hurt that she's packing some serious supernatural heat; whatever The Harvest is, it won't be pretty.)
One of my favorite things about this series is how well flashbacks and present-day action are balanced in the narrative. Knowing too much about what happened back in 2003 would spoil some of the mystique, and getting little hints and flashes of how things once were makes for a constantly-engaging read.
Not as drastic, but definitely holding its own against the mounting villain-tension that comes with Mel's return, is Eve's own struggle with her role in the ongoing police investigation. She's not a cop anymore, and she wasn't ever one in this town -- the question of whether her involvement is necessary or even useful is an interesting one, and she's veering into the territory of being unwanted (and potentially harmful). Kittredge has planted seeds hinting at a larger connection between the 2003 tragedy, Eve's shooting, the missing and dead girls in 2013, and Mel, and it's a fun puzzle to try to guess where those threads become entwined.
Adult-Mel looks…a lot like Young-Danielle. The star tattoos are pretty much the only visual cue we have to remind us that Mel is Mel, making those Dani flashbacks a little bit double-take-inducing. Sure, Mel probably didn't have a chance to keep up the blue hair dye and edgy styling while away at the institution, but I found myself wishing that her adult self had been drawn a little bit further away from Dani's 2003 look.
Kittredge and Miranda are really expanding the creepy-factor of this book with the revelation of Mel's new M.O., and along with that additional creepiness, we're getting ramped-up drama. COFFIN HILL feels like it's a casting notice away from showing up on the CW; it's a complex and intriguing stew of relationship drama, personal discovery, and (of course) supernatural mystery.