Jesus. That’s probably the first thing you’re bound to say upon finishing the latest installment of Coffin Bound. The book is rather horrific, yes, but even then, this issue sort of takes that up a few notches and by the end you’re left the way the characters are: heartbroken. Sad that it came to this, a bit shocked, but knowing deep down that this world wasn’t going to do anything less than this, especially to good people. And that cynicism, that gut feeling of knowing, even as we hope in the face of that understanding, that’s vital to the series.
The book’s opening sets that up rather well, cutting to the point without wasting any time. We start off as seen above, where in Izzy is literally firing in the face of the EarthEater, bearing a look of futility, knowing it’s ultimately pointless. There is an inevitability here in play and it’s part of why in the book thus far and especially in this issue, Izzy operates not with the assumption that she’s getting away, but is keenly aware that the inevitable force of nature will and can get to her at the precise time he chooses. And so she will do all she can in that space, in that uncertain hour, where hope is mere waiting in darkness, as your heartbeat gets quicker and quicker.
The way this opening is laid out is also really strong. Notice how it leads your eye from the first moment, from the gun at the top left and the shot pointing you directly to Bidikar’s captions. That’s a strong, immediate mix of artwork and letters. Dani, Brad Simpson and Aditya Bidikar’s work is one here in a powerful way. The first shot or beat, if you will, is getting to the point in a bang. But that’s the other thing. There’s no bang. There’s a deliberate choice here to, where in you’d expect SFX for the gunshots be put in, not punctuate any of the gunshots with sound. There’s just silence. The text isn’t indicating any noise here to you, even as the visuals say there would be and that’s with reason. The outward noise is literally just that, noise. You’re not meant to be distracted by that. What you’re meant to be focusing on, what the team wants you to focus on is what Izzy’s feeling and going through in this moment. The goal is to put you in her head and the caption is just that first step. And so you hear nothing, nothing but her thoughts, which fill your head, as she just moves and thinks, hearing nothing around her. You feel what she’s feeling, you’re right there with her. That’ll be important later on, as the book moves to the end.
Then we cut to the scene where the world literally breaks beneath her feet, yet Izzy leaps and hangs on, barely. That’s sort of the book in a nutshell. But at the same time, this scene is the first time the SFX kicks in and sound is clear. Izzy properly notices her surroundings, as should you, before the fall. Bidikar’s lettering continues to be fun here, with the rumble of chains being etched in thin, uneven, edgy white lines, shaking to visualize the effect of the chain’s themselves. And then the floor is struck by a clean KRAK. The choice of white imposed over the mostly black backgrounds and a setting steeped in shadows is effective as ever, declaring the importance in the panel almost immediately, drawing your attention the way the characters’ is drawn in that precise moment.
The book then waits no more to strike with its simple but gorgeous panels of minimalist beauty, where in Brad Simpson really gets to cut loose on Dani’s work. Much like the purple panels of the previous issue, the final moment of the page below, where in the world and indeed, Izzy herself, is soaked in blue and it sprays across the whole page, the entire setting like a brush has been flicked, that’s everything the book does right. Expressive, utterly vivid and memorable with striking color, which is contrasted by the shadows and whites it’s surrounded by. The blue also serves as a sort of indicator for blood here, in a way, as we’re very much aware of the violence that’s about to come, as the knife is central to the impact, with it being as pointed as Izzy’s eyes and expression themselves. Then there’s the other element, the ‘coldness’ which the book plays with, which is so central to Izzy and so her being steeped in this cold blue, in shadows and darkness, placed against a white background, holding a knife? Nothing could scream ‘cold blooded’ more than this set of visuals. Words aren’t needed here and indeed the writing doesn’t feel the need to tell you any of that. Watters doesn’t overwrite. He just lets those key beats do their intended job and that they certainly do.
The EarthEater sequences that follow do not disappoint in the slightest either, as we’re reminded once more of how truly odd and powerful a figure he is. There’s no proper grid or panel borders when it comes to him. He’s let loose, this abstract creature, occupying the page as he chooses, as he wishes. You don’t get to contain him in little boxes, dear god no, he’s something more than Izzy and others of her ilk. There’s almost a decaying effect on the page as the EarthEater becomes its subject, there’s a clear breakdown of structure and once again this is a demonstration of where the team’s strengths lie. This page is that. Bidikar can letter the entire book the way he does and then do this utterly odd, intentionally out of place creature’s letters with that standout typeface, where in the letters are a mix of lower-case and upper-case, giving you a sense of character. Simpson can color an odd page like this with splashes of white, gray and a dull orange and still make it work, where in you’re struck by it, but not quite pulled out of the story by it, which is a careful line the lettering has to walk as well.
Dani’s breakdown of this page, which relies on the crude and the abstract, displaying a reality that at once seems both unreal and real, in all its impossible visuals yet grime, is strong as ever. There’s something so deeply broken here, something so dilapidated. And Watters’ writing in the captions here opt for humor in the face of that. This is so broken, so messy, so wrong and the only way to appropriately deal with it, apart from feeling consistent horror and dread, is to laugh. And so these pages serve to underline the innate ridiculousness of the world and to act as release, although that release is a literal one for Izzy, one that’s ever-approaching.
The philosophical musings are, of course, a constant and as the book sees Izzy wrestling with the nature of things surrounding her, finding some measure of peace in the fact that she will have paid her dues, her last debts, by returning Cassandra’s eyes, we know what’s coming. The horror of having forbidden knowledge before characters themselves do is a greatly potent curse in storytelling. It almost always works and as one sits with the pit in their stomach, knowing what realizations await the poor girl, the book doubles down on the horror on the other end.
We pick up with Taqa, Izzy’s once-dear friend and Cassandra’s sister, following up on her meeting with Paulie from the last issue. And oh boy does the terror really go up in volume by this point, as one wonders what the poor little girl is doing with a madman such as Paulie. Tragically, it turns out, she’s not too far off from where Izzy once used to be. Izzy, too, after loss descended and the vulture named Paulie was right there to grab her, being the eternal opportunistic monster. And so here, through a sort of cruel parallel, we see Taqa, in despair, rage and isolation, embrace the life and vision Paulie promises. It’s a dire dark mirror of Izzy, who’s only just managed to escape the man. And as Izzy’s journey and Taqa’s run in parallel here, we get the expected Ben sequence, packed with equally dreadful and oddly amusing, which once again underscores the entire book’s premise.
The book then cracks down and begins to lead to the end, with the pages slowly going from a six panel grid, to a two panel grid to a full page splash, as the pieces all fall into place and then get cemented in that last moment, with no way back. And it’s terrifying. It’s awful. Taqa is changed. Izzy learns of what happened. And everyone’s in their absolute worst nightmare. Izzy can no longer erase her work, not truly, not with Cassandra’s situation. That chance has been lost, for he himself is lost. Taqa has given in and turned away and the odds of her changing her mind are about the same as Old Izzy. It may happen in due time, but right about now? Not a chance in hell. And if the opening was all about putting you in current Izzy’s headspace, the end is all about you being an observer, watching sadly. And it’s why the end has to be people watching Taqa, surprised, the way we are. Those reactions count.
The strip club sequences continue to be the most chilling scenes in comics at the moment and to say they’re unnerving would be a massive understatement. On the whole though, even through those, the mixture of Dani’s pencils, filled with such meaning and purpose, layered with brought to life by Simpson’s colors, continues to remain standout. This is such an exciting book to experience, as the art team is on absolute fire here.
Coffin Bound #3 is a solid installment in a series that’s oddly the most unnerving in comics right now, but somehow humorous about it. It’s going to scare you, get you thinking and make you chuckle when you likely weren’t expecting to and most importantly, as you put it down and exclaim ‘Christ’ at the strip sequences and the ending, it’s going to make you want to see a whole lot more from this team.