REVIEW: Coffin Bound #1 is stylish, surprising, and aggressively nihilistic

By Zack Quaintance — Coffin Bound #1 is a new Image book from writer Dan Watters, artist Dani, colorist Brad Simpson, and letterer Aditya Bidikar, and it’s a comic that caught my eye right away via the aesthetic of its cover art. The cover (see above) is a rather striking image, one that has shades of familiar visuals, but not familiar enough to feel evocative of anything other than itself. There’s a girl one might describe as goth leaned against a vintage sports car being driven by a vulture whose skinless head is wrapped in a bird cage. She is on the ground and armed with a pistol, a cigarette, and one hell of a smoldering stare. Throw in a pile of debris and a logo designed in the shape of a coffin—and what you’ve got is possibly the single most intriguing piece of cover art I’ve seen on a comic all year.

And now that I’ve read Coffin Bound #1, I’m happy to report that the story inside is as singular as that visual. “Cars! Guns! Entropy!” reads the preview text, and, to be sure, all of these things can be found in Coffin Bound. What that list doesn’t tell you, however, is that the book has an angsty metaphysical world within it, one where a loose set of reality is all pulled together by the goals of its protagonist, which in this case is an aggressive sort of nihilism. She’s running away from an assailant, but one gets the impression that her drive to not be caught is born more of stubbornness than of any fear for her future. She simply doesn’t care, but she’ll be damned if she’s made a victim. It’s compelling and relatable, and a great place from which to launch some of the seething visuals and ideas found in this book. 

One segment I found especially interesting was the literal strip club, a slow-building scene that starts out with a familiar strip club setting, that slowly turns into a surreal commentary on the nature of desire. This scene is best experienced within the story, so that’s all I’ll say about that. But I expect it to remain one of the most memorable scenes in a comic book this year.

In the end, the entire creative team should be proud of Coffin Bound. As the book’s writer, Watters said he came up with the concept based on a piece of art that Dani did at a show. He’s certainly built on to Dani’s artwork nicely. Watters is an interesting writer whose comics pretty much always play loose with the rules of reality, be it the Sandman Universe comic Lucifer, the ecoterrortastic end-of-the-world Vault Comics miniseries Deep Roots, or his break out comic, Limbo. Watters is playing with reality again from page one, wherein the hero’s companion is a hunched figure whose head is a vulture’s skull in a birdcage. And it just works.

Dani’s artwork meanwhile is phenomenal throughout, delivering us page after page of incomparable visuals, expertly rendered amid really high quality visual storytelling. The sequencing of the panels here is stylized and assured, giving the book both an excellent sense of clarity within the fantastical while also making clever choices that are fun to take in as a reader. It’s all splashed with Brad Simpson’s colors, which capture the sense of angry nihilism yell, using neon flourishes amid a palette that’s rich with earth tones. And Aditya Bidikar’s lettering is just as on point, using jagged yet seamless word balloons to render the dialogue of some of the more unorthodox characters. 

Overall: Coffin Bound is a highly literary, nihilistic tryst through an incredibly stylish fantasy world. All of the creators involved are doing top-tier work, building an impressively singular story with this comic. 9.3/10

Coffin Bound #1
Dan Watters
Artist: Dani
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Image Comics
Price: $3.99

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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as Comics Bookcase.