Tank Girl meets John Wick in Image Comics’ new dystopian title Coffin Bound, released next week. It is a bleak action story that skirts the fringes of fantasy and horror to tell the story of one woman who is dragged back into a world she hoped was gone.
Dan Watters tells the story of Izzy Tyburn; a character bursting with attitude, prone to violence, and someone who just wants to be left alone. However, if the killers on her trail won’t leave her be then no-one is going to get any peace.
Watters sets the scene from the very first panel. The world of Coffin Bound is desolation and decay. This idea is picked up by the characters that the reader is introduced to in the opening pages, especially that of the Vulture. His appearance symbolises death and one of his opening statements refers to himself as ‘circling the dying’.
The character design offers a nod to classic comics like The Sandman but also more recent offerings like the fantasy western Pretty Deadly. Dani’s artwork captures the characters very succinctly. You get an instance idea of the personalities on the page from the visuals. When the car of suited men turns up in the desert, their murderous intent is instantly recognisable.
Dani draws on stereotypical imagery to speed up the storytelling and also poke fun at mass media conventions. The typical gangster appearance and the dystopian desert world, set up a scenario which is instantly recognisable and in turn allows the writer and artist to play with the reader’s expectations. The opening scene, especially when it comes to the page layout and panel composition, is about scene setting and stating visual intent.
There is an element of abstraction within the artwork that focuses on character moments or actions. The dropping of the background or removal of features creates unrealistic images but gives the moment weight. Dani’s layouts are about enhancing elements of the story or character in the most striking possible way.
The color work by Brad Simpson is surprisingly vibrant for such a darkly themed comic. The landscapes especially have a brightness to them that frames the characters in the foreground. When a darker tone is required, such as during night scenes, Simpson still brings the panels to life with deep purples ad crimsons that accentuate the black outlines and shadows.
The art style gives Coffin Bound a grunge look; like a modern version of The Crow. You can almost hear the alternative rock score playing in the backgrounds. One of the ways that the comic achieves this aesthetic is through Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. He has adapted the style of the speech balloons to match the gritty, road movie vibe. The ellipses do not have neat edges and only the underside has a black boarder, like a shadow on the speech. This creates the impression that the speech is merging with the art, becoming part of the scenery.
The Vulture’s speech is almost the opposite. It is jarring and has sweeping, hand drawn slashes for boarders. It gives The Vulture an otherworldly presence within the comic, similar to Morpheus’ speech in The Sandman.
Coffin Bound is like a road movie with its own visual language and narrative beats. The plot is unravelled through the actions of the cast and their introduction to the reader. The abstract element within the art takes its cue from the disjointed story and nothing can prepare the reader for the series of events that unfold.
Imagine Tank Girl starring in an Alan Moore horror comic and you will have a pretty good idea what to expect from Coffin Bound. Violence, fantasy grotesques and nods to modern music, such as a background cameo from the late, great Keith Flint, make up an exhilarating ride of a comic.
In a year already filled with great comics, releases like this just keep pushing the bar higher and higher.