Coffin Bound from Image Comics deserves a place at the absolute top of everyone’s reading list.
Let’s chat about my new favorite book. I’ll just go ahead and say it outright: if you have any interest in comics, Coffin Bound needs to be on your radar. This book is INCREDIBLE, and while only two issues in at this point, it has absolutely blown me away. I absolutely cannot express enough how much love I have for this book. Stop reading this. THIS IS TIME YOU COULD BE USING TO GO BUY COFFIN BOUND AND READ THAT INSTEAD. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO GO GO!
…..Okay maybe I should elaborate a bit more.
On the surface, Coffin Bound doesn’t seem like anything that hasn’t been done in the scope of neo-noir before. Our protagonist, Izzy Tyburn, is targeted by a notorious killer and hits the road as the killer pursues. Along the way we meet various criminal groups, crime bosses, down-on-their-luck people just trying to get by, and various forms of sex, drugs and violence we’d expect from the derelict landscapes surrounding the story, populated by dilapidated buildings and absolutely covered in litter and graffiti. However, the surface is where familiarity stops, and as we dig deeper the true surreal nature of Coffin Bound blasts its way into our brains.
For starters, the world is obviously post-apocalyptic, or perhaps meso-apocalyptic as the world decays with a whimper. A little Mad Max with a smidge of Anthony Burgess, we are obviously in a society twisted by time and on the decline. A city crumbling city lounges on the edge of a barren wasteland. In the streets, gangs and crime roam free, pushing drugs, shooting things and stealing organs and flesh in order to make themselves more perfect. Y’know…. Typical gang activity.
In this world of decay lives the aforementioned unfortunate soul Izzy Tyburn, who herself has some sort of ties to crime and overall seems like most of the hardships in the world around her are just there to annoy her. Moving through the world like a Goth Daria, Izzy is joined on her quest by a “vulture,” which is some sort of supernatural creature that consists of a caged vulture skeleton atop some sort of mechanical rig. This clockwork carrion eater apparently attached itself to Izzy once the hit was placed on her head with an unstoppable killer called
This is how we’re first introduced to the main antagonist of the tale: with a section of narration that shouts his name in bold, fanciful letters that feel directly ripped from the pages of horror comics from the 70’s. EarthEater is himself a daunting foe, with the ability to track individuals by consuming dirt to communicate with the earth and the power to move the earth by his sheer will. He makes short work of many of the other antagonists which consist mainly of mob-style thugs led by a seemingly immortal and wonderfully poetic Paulie Starlight, who from what I can tell is simply rendered indestructible by a slurry of drugs that prevent him from feeling pain. Joining this already unique crew are strippers who peel off their skin for money, an agoraphobic germaphobe with a chainsaw and expendable limbs, and an oracle who had their eyes stolen by the previous mentioned organ stealing gang. Hell of cast.
The uniqueness of this story continues to its very core: Izzy’s mission. You’d be forgiven if you thought she was travelling across country in a bid to find safety in seclusion or perhaps to enact her revenge on those that wronged her. However, it’s neither and both in it’s own existential way. Izzy’s goal is to travel to everywhere and everyone she has ever left her mark and erase any memory of herself from the face of the earth. In her own words:
If the world will not have me, it cannot have me at all.
Rather than die, I shall unlive. Happy ashes.
Ah, it’s so great. What an amazing concept. A character with anti-ego, who decides that if their mark on the world is to be another death, another statistic, then she’ll simply disappear in the purist form. Rob the world of her history, of her experiences, because they are hers and she gets to decide what happens to them. It’s a magically bleak mission, but one that Izzy follows with a cold dynamism.
So, let’s talk the creators of this masterpiece. Dan Watters is in charge of the words, writing some incredibly poetic and surreal dialogue as characters playfully wax philosophic as simple casual chatter. Watters has a history of writing titles that exist somewhere between the gritty and the bizarre, having done Lucifer, Limbo and Deep Roots, another one of my personal favorites. His ability to give every character their own strange albeit well constructed manner of speaking is impressive. His dialogue in this book dances around the existential and nihilistic, a them that is perfectly accompanied by Dani’s art. Sweeping wastlands, sharp lines and playful facial expressions drape and dance across the page as Izzy and Senor Vulture cruise across the land looking to destroy history itself. Dani’s art gives us characters that are expressive and intense in a way that is both charming and visceral at different times. Dani does and AMAZING job setting up small details in the backgrounds of each panel, making the world around the characters and the action feel real and alive, from cigarette butts under a couch to lights and decorations in the background of a club. I don’t believe Dani has a ton of published work, but I hope to see more and more and so much more from Dani in coming years. The whole experience is topped off with Brad Simpson’s wonderfully water-colored and slightly muddy colors and Aditya Bidikar’s variety of lettering styles expressing a wide-range of character voices.
Coffin Bound is one of the best books on the shelves today and is deserving of every ounce of time you can give to it. It’s Third Policeman meets Tank Girl. It’s Sandman meets Down and Out in Las Vegas. It’s Seven Psychopaths meets the Stranger. It’s one part amazing and one part fantastic. Get out there and read it.