Coffin Bound #1: A Promise Of Grindhouse Nightmares And High-Octane Thrills Unfulfilled

by Richard Bruton

First issues are tough to get right, they really are. You want it to be hooky, interesting, thrilling, set up a story well, and not be deliberately vague. But it’s easy to get wrong… and Coffin Bound manages to get it wrong. It’s a good first issue, especially Dani‘s art, but it’s not the high-octane thrill ride I was hoping for.

Coffin Bound is a new Image Comics ongoing series from writer Dan Watters and artist Dani which Image Comics wrote up as…

An all new action series full of grindhouse nightmares and high-octane thrills.

Chased by an unstoppable killer, Izzy Tyburn has decided that if the world won’t have her in it, it can have nothing of her at all. She’s retreading her life, leaving nothing but burnt rubber, ash, and the sun-scorched bones of those who get in her way.

Sometimes it’s well worth looking at the PR for a first issue and asking yourselves the question, ‘does the PR tell me more about the book than the 20 odd pages I’ve just read?’

Well, sort of. I shall explain…

The lead character Izzy opens the book in some desert shack, rundown, full of nightmarish mannequins, talking to the caged skeletal head of a vulture atop a part constructed body.

Which gives you a glimpse into the ideascape Coffin Bound occupies. Real? Imaginary? Fever dream vision? We don’t know, all we know is the that the vulture’s a harbinger of doom, meaning Izzy’s on borrowed time.

In short order, she faces off a hit squad and we learn she’s been targeted by the Eartheater, for no reason I could work out. Although it does gives Watters a chance to indulge himself with a healthy dose of purple prose, trying to outdo the era of Morrison playing at outdoing Moore at his purplest and prosiest. It has the feel of early Vertigo, a 90s thing that fitted, pretty much at the time, but here it’s all coming off forced. Coffin Bound might have a point, but there’s not enough sign of it here in issue 1.

The problem is, once Watters starts waxing lyrical with the Eartheater, he doesn’t seem to be able to stop and from then on, Izzy starts spouting stuff like this…

I met a man named Vladimar. He slept by the tracks. He burned acid trash for warmth and it stung my eyes. He’d been crying. Evident by the greasy streaks in the dirt by his cheeks. But he was smiling. Nay, laughing

You see what I mean?

After that, we’re thrown around the place, a chat to Izzy’s ‘manager’, a visit to a very exclusive strip club, where the girls shed down to the bone and the owner knows Izzy in some way and, dressed in his best Adam Ant, tries to convince the Eartheater to call off the contract.

But it comes off as a series of little set-pieces cobbled together, never really gelling past our initial look at Izzy and her vulture companion. Frankly, if this first issue would have just been Izzy being introduced, the vulture turning up, and the hit squad battle to end things, before seeing Izzy blast off on the road and maybe a final page with a taster for the bad things she’s going to face, it would have been a damn sight more satisfying all round. Instead, it’s another one of those first issues that stutters when it should blast off.

However, that’s all about the story and the writing. When it comes to Dani’s artwork, I have nothing but praise. I’d seen her work in various bits for 2000 AD, but seeing her develop here, delivering 20-odd pages, is just something else.

Dani delivers both style and mood, a scratchy line and really solid storytelling reminiscent in a way of Sean Philips by way of Eduardo Risso. Too often I see style over substance, the artist loving the big, flashy things but failing to deliver storytelling. Dani’s art here doesn’t fall into that trap, with a readability that, sadly, isn’t something you see in the story itself, but manages to deliver that storytelling and flow with plenty of style as well. And as for character design, it’s all good there as well, with Izzy coming off as a perfect doomed heroine with attitude, the vulture both creepy and ridiculous in equal measure, and even the Eartheater suitably menacing.

All in all, Coffin Bound is an iffy first issue, beset by problems that could, so easily, have been overcome. Artistically it looks rather fine, but it left me wanting more… or maybe less, just a better introduction to what has potential, in the idea at least to be a really cool new series.

Coffin Bound Issue 1. Written by Dan Watters, art by Dani, colors by Brad Simpson. Published by Image Comics.

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