The Grotesquerie of Dan Watters’ COFFIN BOUND

A two-page spread of volume one of COFFIN BOUND Dan Watters' fractured characters fit perfectly into the canted angles of Dani's art to create a wholly satisfying work in volume one of COFFIN BOUND.

“It is disorder, perhaps, that gives the world its shape.”

In the foreword of Coffin Bound, Ram V. explains to dear reader that he initially didn’t understand the point of Dan Watters’ work until he had seen the finished product in all of its glory. I waved off Ram’s confusion with the same kind of naivete that drives me to throw away the Ikea instructions before assembling my upprörande.

The above sentence, appearing roughly a third of the way through volume one, encapsulates how I felt once I’d worked my way through the blood-soaked pages.

Coffin Bound is a series of shattered images, of gore and unsettling framing, that reflects upon itself to create one of the most beautiful, self-contained arcs I’ve read in a very long time. Rarely have I set down a volume with the same kind of satisfaction that Coffin Bound brings.

Watters’ World

Our tome tells the story of Izzy Tyburn as she sets out to erase herself from the earth ahead of her inevitable assassination at the hands of the Eartheather, equal parts Laelaps and minor Mad Max villain. She’s accompanied in her quest by the Eartheater’s herald, a sometimes-cryptic, sometimes-cynical figure with a caged vulture skull for a head.

As she goes about her cleansing, Watters introduces us to a cast of characters that bring their own rich backstories and vital importance to the story:

  • Paulie Starlight – the divine-inspired poet and proprietor of a strip club in which the dancers remove their skin to reveal the muscles and sinew underneath
  • Cassandra – Izzy’s former lover and blind prophet who gave up his eyes to save Izzy’s skin
  • The Imperfect – a serial killing cult, obsessed with achieving perfect symmetry through Frankensteinian means
  • Taqa – Cassandra’s sister and a study in Paulie Starlight’s manipulation and charisma

Izzy moves through the muted earthiness of her dystopian world. As she does so, she encounters echoes of herself – Cassandra, a picture, her name sharpied on a bathroom stall, a totem – that triggers well-wrought flashback storytelling. Watters’ ability to provide exposition without halting the action for hokey omniscient narration allows Izzy’s catharsis to flow with smooth abandon.

Dan Watters writes poetry, literally and figuratively, in this collection. The characters’ syncopated deliveries feel at-home in Dani’s tilted and fractured panels, accurately reflecting the characters’ rapid plunge toward entropy. Speech blocks dislocate from their masters to tumble and loop around the pages. Every line melts into the next in beautiful dissonance. In his dialogue, Watters wields Paulie Starlight’s fake-deep bullshit poetry with the same grace and dexterity as the Imperfects’ detached chittering.

He even gives us a B-plot, wholly unexpected, involving Izzy’s “manager,” Steve, and his ongoing pursuit of a life without surface, ending with his ba floating in a flooded room.

The Final Verdict

With volume one of Coffin Bound, Watters has struck on a compelling story of violence, vain redemption and vices that pairs fast with the singular aesthetic Brad Simpson’s coloring has wrought inside the scaffolding of Dani’s artwork.

With abandon, I’d call it Well Worth The Purchase. Just don’t read it on a crowded airplane or on the couch with your great aunt.

For more suggestions on page-turners and page-burners, check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!