Coffin Bound #1 is a beautiful and brutal debut that's as bewildering as it is exciting.
Image Comics has been doing quite well for itself in the social and political allegory department, with books like Little Wing, Pretty Deadly, and Fairlady. Coffin Bound has all the right elements to join the upper echelon of the publisher's weird offerings, but trying to thread the narrative needle can feel a bit overwhelming due to the bizarrely obtuse world in which this issue is set, and the coded language implemented to convey any relevant plot propulsion. However, these hurdles work in Coffin Bound’s favor.
In broad strokes, Coffin Bound #1 tells the story of Izzy Tyburn, a young woman hunted by killers and supernatural monstrosities, as she attempts to erase any signs of her existence from the larger world; she's looking to “unlive,” as she puts it. Izzy is accompanied by a dead bird in a cage perched atop a humanoid frame known only as “Vulture." The bird's true purpose in the larger narrative is a bit shaky (beyond doing what real-life vultures do, circle dying prey), but he’s instantly the most compelling character due to his dry personality and insane aesthetic.
Writer Dan Watters (Lucifer) is keeping a lot of card in his hand, which is for the better. Coffin Bound #1 feels as if it’s trying to keep readers scratching their heads. The plot, as seemingly thin as it is, isn’t impenetrable, but everything surrounding it warrants myriad questions, such as, what’s the deal with the EarthEaters? Wait, what does Izzy’s manager do, exactly? So flaying-flesh fetish bars (you’ll see) are a thing in this world? And while no debut issue should put everything on Main Street, a little more context might appeal to a wider breadth of readers. The obtuse nature of the storytelling is by no means a deal-breaker. Some of our greatest comic writers have made heady narrative and nigh-unreadable dialogue hallmarks of their work (looking at you, Grant Morrison). Coffin Bound could be the sleeper hit of 2019 that only the cool kids know about.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Coffin Bound #1 is perfect. Artist Dani (2000AD) captures the grit and grime of Izzy’s world through her art style. Her character designs are fascinating and complex. The level of detail in each panel evokes a sense of a world time has left behind, and when needed, she quickly falls into a more impressionistic style either to obscure something horrific or convey a raw nerve emotions. In short, Dani’s work is brilliant and we hope to see more of it in the future. The color pallet is also spot on. Brad Simpson’s use of sun-bleached hues highlight the terrible world outside and his use of darker tones shines a light on Dani’s gritty line work. These two have peanut butter and jelly relationship from the first panel to the last.
What kind of comic fan Coffin Bound #1 is aimed at is difficult to determine. Its tone is consistent, but it clearly hasn’t settled on what kind of genre it operates within. Of course, it doesn’t have to make any commitment. Some of the best comics ever created don’t neatly fall into a particular category. Some readers may not jibe with Coffin Bound off the rip, but that’s OK. There is enough gorgeous art and fascinating notions to keep most folks invested. And surely as more issue come out and the scope of the book widens (or at least become a bit clearer) it will speak to horror, mystery, crime, comedy and fantasy fans alike.
Coffin Bound #1, by Dan Watters, Dani, and Brad Simpson, is available Aug. 7 from Image Comics.