Writer: Dan Watters
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A grindhousy, surreal, horror-adjacent ongoing series about a woman trying to erase every aspect of her past while on the run by an extremely powerful killer.
It has a similar color palette and stage presence to REPO! The Genetic Opera, but none of the cheese factor. It has the grit and violence and out-there-ness of grindhouse but is very much its own thing, too.
While I haven't written a review of Coffin Bound's first groundbreaking issue, you can hear me and Matt Lune talk to Dan Watters a little about in on the That's the Issue podcast.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Izzy is on the run from a crazed and powerful killer. But rather than trying to hide out, she goes on a road trip to erase any mark, creation or part of her that she left in her life so that, once she's gone, it'll be like she never even existed.
The man who hired EarthEater! for the task? Izzy's unhinged (ex-?)lover. But why? And can he stop EarthEater!?
So many comics are written and styled like films, but Coffin Bound feels more like a stage play. It often evokes a mood through lighting and color, and uses quippy banter and dramatic flair to evoke a certain beat and a fascination that grows in the reader. But it doesn't go too far – there's no problem suspending disbelief or buying into this crazy world built by its creators.
Part of that "stage play" feeling is intentional on Dan Watters's part, and the unique way the characters speak and the story plays out is a massive part of Coffin Bound's charm and what makes it feel so different and disruptive for the medium.
Dani's art is so detailed, yet purposely messy, chaotic. A mass of delicate lines form every small piece of the "set," or highlight simple facial characteristics set against a gradient background (like on the cover above). It's almost like the comic book equivalent of a spotlight on the actor's face, everything around them hidden in darkness, as they soliloquize to the audience.
Dani also gives a lot of thought to timing with regard to the comic's panels. The paneling style often shuns the traditional layout, opting for a more chaotic one to match Izzy's personality. Quieter scenes, however, are more organized and symmetric. While each style goes far to convey the length of each beat and the tone of the scene, it also mirrors the larger conflict that we get more insight into in this issue: the people who believe in symmetry at any cost and Izzy, who's driven to destroy that order and symmetry.
The theme of "happy ashes" appears again this issue, a through-line now created that's likely to be a major theme in the title overall. It's an interesting oxymoron, since ashes obviously can't be happy in a literal sense, and figuratively, death is often viewed as a negative. It's almost like winning for Izzy, even in death. This idea that if she can't choose to stay in the world, then the world can't have anything of her at all is a satisfying enough goal to fixate on, and that's pretty darn close to happiness.
I touch on it a little in the aforementioned podcast episode, but the name of the comic is so appropriate for the story. Izzy is coffin-bound, at once tied to it and headed toward it at the same time.
Everyone's contributions on Coffin Bound give the title its unique voice, not just Watters & Dani. Brad Simpson's colors vacillate from the pale palette of the real world or the sickly yellows of a polluted city under the hot sun to scene awash in violent red or the dark, shadowy interior of a house haunted by past events and future plans. It's the drama of theatrical lighting gels, building tone subconsciously. But unlike the stage, the creators are able to switch between scenes and their tonal colors quickly and easily, and Simpson often shows these differences in location and mood through pages that are either all a single color or balanced with opposing ones, like purples and yellows or warm and cool colors.
As always, Aditya Bidikar's lettering is on-point, from his sharp balloons that evoke a similarly sharp speech sound from the vulture character, to EarthEater!'s more stylized captions in his scenes, to the hand-crafted sound effects that match the over-the-top, nearly comical stylings of the title.
We also get more hints of past events, but no insight into what exactly happened to Cassandra, or what made Ben...the way he is. It just seems like things went sideways in a big way at some point in the past, and that it led to the mess in the present, however directly or indirectly.
The end of the issue will make you strongly wish issue #3 was out already.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The unique narrative style can make it a little more challenging to absorb the information than comics where people talk normally. Similarly, its style may be a turn-off for more conventional readers.
Nudity, gore and violence make this probably not the best read for kids.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Coffin Bound feels like a classic Vertigo title: it's new and different and edgy and exciting. It's got that punk rock vibe, like it's shunning traditional genre trappings in favor of finding its own unique voice.
Which makes sense, since it's a truly singular comic.
It's a title likely to bring in a variety of audiences. Whether readers are attracted by the goth, strong female protagonist, the grindhouse aesthetic, the surrealism and themes of death, the theatrical manner of speech, or the sheer fact that Coffin Bound is doing something remarkably different from most other comics, everyone's likely to find something to love in Coffin Bound.
But be warned: it'll burn inside you, until there's nothing left but happy ashes.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Deep Roots by Dan Watters & Val Rodrigues
Fearscape by Ryan O'Sullivan and Andrea Mutti
Arcadia by Alex Paknadel & Eric Scott Pfeiffer
If you like the art:
Girl With No Name by Alex Ranarivelo, Tanya Wexler, and Dani Strips (AKA Dani)
Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter by Adam Glass, Olivia Cuartero-Briggs, & Hayden Sherman
Moon Knight by Charlie Huston & David Finch
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dan Watters – Writer
Part of the White Noise collective with other extremely talented comics creators
Outlander: Lives in London
Dani – Illustrator
New Face: Doesn't seem to have a ton of published comics under her belt, but that's not stopping her from doing amazing work on this title
Brad Simpson – Colorist
Tends to take on a lot of the darker, moodier, more supernatural projects.
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer
Multitalented: Co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines
Dream Team: Also worked with Dan Watters on Deep Roots, and other White Noise writers, Ram V & Ryan O'Sullivan
Sometimes hosts a #LettererJam event on Twitter where letters all show their different approaches to a single page of comic book art
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