COFFIN JACKSON (WEBTOON SERIES)
Creator: CTK (@ctkcave)
Publisher: WEBTOON (@webtoonofficial)
WHAT IS IT?
A funeral director who processes bodies for black market sales finds himself wrapped up in an unusual heist in this gritty noir webtoon series.
Think 6 Feet Under meets Fargo with a bit of Burke and Hare flair.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Roman Piotroski is a quiet funeral director who’s wrapped up in some shady business dealings with a New Jersey gangster named Fisher. By day, he goes about his time pretending to be a mild-mannered mortician. By night, he dismembers and processes corpses for sale on the black market. When a trio of bumbling would-be thieves discover Roman’s side-gig, they stage a death to get into his business with the aim of blackmailing him into helping with their half-baked scheme. Worse yet, Roman finds himself abruptly unemployed the same day his secret is discovered.
The thieves want to stage a robbery, a big one, against the most unlikely person possible: Roman’s former employer. Enraged at being unceremoniously dumped after a decade of service, Roman’s temptation to enact a little revenge is heightened and he decides to take the ragtag group of criminals up on their offer. But, when a highly sought-after corpse appears on his slab, Roman finds himself in the midst of a high-stakes game with life-or-death consequences. With the city's worst and wealthiest hot on his trail, can Roman and his newfound crew manage to recoup their costs with the corpse, or will they all end up six feet under?
CTK’s artwork is stunning and downright dreary. The character designs are somber and detailed, with fine lines and subtly emotive features to help sell the cold and often unhinged nature of the cast. The style is reminiscent of the classic cult Nintendo title Hotel Dusk and carries with it a heavy mood worthy of the noir-adjacent concept.
The script is a well-mixed cocktail of black comedy, revenge thriller, and whodunnit mystery. Coffin Jackson is a fantastic slow-burn tale that delves deep into the darkest reaches of humanity while maintaining a morbid sense of curiosity in its storytelling.
The subdued color palette that’s used throughout the series helps add to the unease and seedy aesthetics of the narrative and the setting. The colors are often pale and heavily highlighted even during late-night sequences, which makes moments that are darkened feel insanely ominous.
The series is heavily reliant on its dialogue, so the focus on lettering is a key feature that helps move the narrative along. The thin font choice used throughout emphasizes the nonchalant and aloof tones, while the bold and blocky sound effects pack a punch since they are used so sparingly.
Despite the heavy themes, Coffin Jackson is actually quite funny in a horribly twisted way. The morbid, dark humor is perfect for the aesthetic of the webtoon and it heightens the cold, criminal personalities to a level of uncanny discomfort.
The mystery of who we can only assume is the titular Jackson is an excellent example of effectively building suspense and an added layer of intrigue. The story begins with his disappearance and his face is plastered upon newspapers and televisions like a haunting specter in the background, never letting the reader forget he exists without fully introducing him until much later in the series. It's brilliantly executed.
The cast of antiheroes is refreshing. Each of the main characters is charming yet morally corrupt, making it hard for readers to decide whether or not they want to root for them, which sets them apart from the typical ensemble many may be used to.
Roman in particular is a twisted and captivating protagonist, if one can call him as such. He's in so deep that even other hardened criminals shudder in his presence and his unassuming appearance makes him a truly haunting character.
A someone who has shadowed in funeral homes for writing research, I was impressed to see that this series has been developed with care to ensure the details involving the proper mortuary services and tools are accurate to real life (the dismemberments not so much).
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Strong language, embalming-related gore and dismemberment, graphic violence and blood, gang-related themes such as torture, use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, heavy presence of violent death, decapitations. Recommended for a mature audience only.
CTK often switches scenes/days between episodes and, at times, it feels as if something has been skipped or omitted until you realize they’ve simply utilized the new installment as a way transition. It can be a bit jarring if you go into it without understanding that fact.
There are a few minimal typos that appear to either be translation errors or the result of someone lettering too quickly, but they are few and far between and easily missable. They don't halt the pacing in the slightest and I, personally, missed one of them on my first readthrough.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The world of embalmers and funeral homes is a captivating setting for many, so throwing those elements into a body-snatching heist series with a coveted corpse mystery at the center seems like the perfect combination for a one-of-a-kind webtoon unlike anything you've read before. The fascination that surrounds end-of-life services is utilized in many forms of media, from cinema like Autopsy of Jane Doe and video games like the Mortuary Assistant, all the way to manga classics like The Embalmer, and Coffin Jackson fits into that niche category perfectly so die-hard fans of these kinds of stories will be immediately satisfied.
The added twist of an unusual crime and seedy dealings makes this title immensely unique and the cast sits in a morally grey area, one that darkens with each passing episode, making sure readers can’t help but get invested to see what depravity is coming next. Roman's personality and dry nature are reminiscent of Dexter and he's an immensely captivating anti-hero that grabs hold of the reader's attention quickly. The dark humor, heavy tone, and gritty atmosphere make Coffin Jackson a must for fans of noir-crime dramas who want a bit of action and macabre motives alongside their slow-burn narrative. The crime elements are worthy of comparison to beloved heist and gangster films and the slower pacing lends to the grungy cinematic styling. Coffin Jackson is a clever and enjoyable thriller that will make your stomach turn and your side hurt from laughing.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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