The existential death wish continues in Coffin Bound #2 from Image Comics as Izzy starts to say her goodbyes and remove herself form the world.
After the action packed opening issue, Coffin Bound #2 slows down the pace to introduce more cast members and expand on the world Izzy so desperately wants to leave.
This issue opens with a group of organ harvesters hard at work. A gruesome mutilation is overlaid with the words of a prophet explaining their search for ultimate beauty. It is an uncomfortable but poignant contrast that feeds off urban legend and mass media expectations.
This thinly vailed social commentary at the beginning is Dan Watters’ way of preparing the reader for the pages ahead. Coffin Bound is not a pleasant read: it’s action packed and darkly humorous but at its centre beats a disturbed heart. It has a lot in common with the original Mad Max movie in that it features a twisted vision of a world that surrounds us with a central character who has no desire to continue living. A reckless, lost soul suffering through the hate inflicted on the world.
Watters gives the reader characters that they can relate to; friends for Izzy to interact with. This helps to build Izzy’s personality, flesh out her past, and heighten the sense of empathy for her. The quiet, reflective scenes are a stark contrast to the excessive violence that follows. It is Watters’ ‘quiet before the storm’ and a way of relaxing the reader after the opening shocker.
The characters also emphasise the tragic nature of this dark fantasy world. They represent affection and even love but are shunned and harshly treated. Izzy want’s nothing to do with them because it would make her chosen path of destruction that much harder. Watters shows the reader what Izzy is giving up so that the story has more of an impact.
The visual aspect of Coffin Bound is striking and dynamic. Dani’s inks have rough edges with heavy shadows defining the characters and the scenery. It is as if the images have been etched out of layers of blackness before Brad Simpson has been allowed to apply the color.
Dani makes the scenes very personal, even when she employs the use of long, establishing shots. There is the sense that everything in the panels relates to the characters on the page. At one point in the script Izzy explains that a bird’s nest “isn’t separate from the whole”, she infers that it is a part of the bird. This is impression you get from Dani’s art; it is all linked together with the scenery reflecting the character’s mood.
This integrated approach is best illustrated through the panel layouts. They change from scene to scene to create different atmospheres. The reader is given an instant impression of the scene from the page turn because the layouts are visually different. On some pages a standard panel formation with white gutters is used whereas the next page may be free from any gutters with the panels bleeding to the edge of the page and small inserts placed on top. This later layout gives the impression of intimacy even before the reader takes in the images.
The outlandish aesthetic created by Dani is backed up by Brad Simpson’s colors and Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. The scene transitions are assisted by the expressive color changes that Simpson employs: shifting from greys to vivid pinks. However, the continuity is retained by Bidikar’s uniform speech balloons. The unique look of the balloons, especially the thin tails, adds an extra element to the visuals. It is different from what the reader is used to but is still clearly recognisable as a comic component.
Coffin Bound is a dark and tragic tale as illustrated by the title itself. It has moments of humour and includes some ridiculous moments but not all readers will get the joke and find these scenes funny. Watters does not tell gags; he makes bleak social comparisons with great comic timing.
The art work assists and complements this theme. It uses the conventions of typical comic books and subverts them to produce a challenging work of art. As a result, Coffin Bound is a thickly layered comic with an enhanced reading experience. The more time you dedicate to each page the more you will get out of it.
Definitely not for everyone but Coffin Bound is a triumph for those it is aimed at.