Writer: Dan Watters
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The second volume of this weird, beautiful mess of a series circling death, philosophy, and the post-British invasion punk mentality.
Think Smokin' Aces meets Sandman.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After the events of the first volume of Coffin Bound, Taqa has found refuge in the form of a religion that uses heroin to commune with God. The police begin to threaten violence upon the church and soon, new legislation will pass to make the drug, and therefore the church, illegal. When the preacher discovers that Taqa has seen the Vulture, an impossible being that only emerges around the dead and dying, he implores her to seek out the Vulture and prove the existence of God.
With little regard for her own life or safety and a burning need to continue communing with God, Taqa takes out a hit on her own life attracting a slew of strange and supernatural assassins. As she waits for her life to be threatened, the vulture doesn't come, and her quest to prove the existence of God proves to be more elusive than she originally thought.
Will she be able to save the church before it's too late? Or will she only find the vulture in the moments before it all comes crashing down?
Watters has an impeccable ability to discuss philosophical ideas without coming across as boring, preachy, or pretentious. By balancing his themes with a unique presentation and a lack of judgment, he successfully does what most comics fail to achieve: inviting the reader to grapple with those ideas and decide for themselves how they feel about them.
DaNi's wild, eccentric lines perfectly complement the gritty, post-punk world presented in Coffin Bound as well as the deeply strange, postmodern themes. The lack of definition in the faces and the sparse details shouldn't work, but they reinforce the core conceit of the comic beautifully.
Brad Simpson's moody, high contrast color palette is not only a feast for the eyes, but a powerful, driving bassline underpinning the shrieking guitars and frantic riffing of the narrative and art.
Aditya Bidikar continues to make a strong case for his eventual Eisner nomination. The letters are modern, creative, and seamless all at once.
Emma Price puts in a ton of behind-the-scenes work to create some of the most impressive panels and visual motifs in modern comics. Her influence is undoubtedly a big part of keeping everything cohesive in what should be a hot mess of a series.
Volume 1 of Coffin Bound had a host of supremely interesting and well-developed characters; somehow, Volume 2 is able to build on that pantheon and overshadow them with some of the most fascinating and cool characters in recent memory.
To cite a specific example, EarthEater was a massive existential threat in the first volume that was both visually interesting and thematically relevant; Madame Entropy replaces him as the primary threat in Volume 2 and even more fully embodies the themes and ideas of the series, all while maintaining striking visuals and a commanding presence.
In a lesser comic, using heroin as a metaphor for religion would be trite and offensive; Coffin Bound is not that comic and manages to fully explore the implications of its claim, give compelling supporting arguments in favor of that philosophy, and provide a counter-thesis that is somehow beautiful and life-affirming at the center of a deeply melancholic journey.
Issue #7 is a high point not just in the series, but in comics as a mode of literature. Everything that made this already incredible series work is amplified and the result is a mind-bending, devastatingly beautiful conflict that forces a reaction out of even the most jaded reader.
The purpose of art is a topic that is often explored in narrative, usually to the detriment of the piece and the chagrin of the reader. Coffin Bound is one of the rare works that manages to have a meaningful and novel discussion about the purpose of art without sacrificing anything that makes a story worth experiencing.
With a bold decision that could have killed the pacing in the final issue, Volume 2 manages to stick the landing with a heart-wrenching tour of devastation as a result of the events of the series and an equally sobering final page that ties up all of the big ideas presented so far in the series.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Content warning for police brutality, drug use, violence, and nudity. This is an adult comic and it's not afraid to GO there.
Bidikar is, as always, a top-notch letterer, but doesn't particularly stand out until the end of issue 2, when Madam Entropy is introduced (Which, mind, is one of the funniest jokes in the entire series).
Watters's eclectic and idiosyncratic dialogue is a huge breaking point. While I personally feel it fits the strange art and world of the comic, many might find it distracting and unnatural. If the writing bothers you on that level, you aren't going to have a good time with this comic.
It could be considered offensive or insensitive to compare religious devotees to heroin addicts and, again, while I feel it was handled exceptionally well, I can see how the religiously inclined would not stand for Coffin Bound's explicit portrayal of them.
Taqa is not nearly as interesting a protagonist as Izzy from Volume 1. Most of the time, Volume 2 stands up to direct comparison with its predecessor (and, to be clear, the only reason this is an issue is because Volume 2 is in the unfortunate position of being compared directly to Volume 1), but there's no getting around the fact that Izzy's successor is neither as compelling nor as driven or complex as the original.
The ending of the first volume was ambiguous and mysterious, which worked since the story was coming down off of the adrenaline-fuelled carnage of an unstable cast of freaks and self-destructive acts. By necessity, Volume 2 gives definite answers to the ending of Volume 1, which is a shame.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
There is very simply nothing like Coffin Bound on this Earth. Many comics try to discuss big ideas in a smart, pointed way; many try to build strange, beautiful worlds with unique styles and fascinating lore; many try to fill their pages with gripping action, interesting characters, and clever dialogue. None achieve all three with the same level of excellence as Coffin Bound.
Even if you wind up not liking this comic, the arguments and discussions you wind up having about it are the kinds that are worth having. If you like high-minded works of art, can't get enough of an interesting, well-composed universe, or you're just desperately looking for something to finally scratch that long-neglected Sandman itch, you have no excuse not to dive into this tour de force of a comic.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Coffin Bound, Vol. 1 by Dan Watters & Dani
Fearscape by Ryan O'Sullivan & Andrea Mutti
Arcadia by Alex Paknadel & Eric Scott Pfeiffer
If you like the art:
Girl With No Name by Alex Ranarivelo, Tanya Wexler, & 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 (@DanPGWatters) – Writer
Outlander: Born and currently lives in London, England
Part of the White Noise collective with other extremely talented comics creators
Indie Darling: Has established himself as a breakout voice in the indie comics scene. Some people are calling him the next Neil Gaiman. It's me, I'm people.
DaNi (@danistrips) - Artist
Outlander: Born and raised in Athens, Greece, and studied sculpture at the Athens School of Fine Arts.
Award Winner: Took home the reader's choice award at the Greek Comics Awards in 2015 for her self published comic Tales from the Strips.
Cat Lover: She has cats and displays them prominently on her social media, which is always a positive trait.
Brad Simpson (@20EyesBrad) – Colorist
Multitalented: Brad got his start as an oil painter before being drafted into comics by Nick Dragotta (of East of West fame).
Prolific: Despite only starting in comics six years ago, Simpson has a list of credits the length of his arm.
Though dabbling in all sorts of work, Brad's work is especially striking and fitting on pieces like Sex, Bloodborne, and Black Stars Above.
Aditya Bidikar (@adityab) – 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 The Picture of Everything Else.
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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