Writer and Londoner Dan Watters has been a name to watch for a while now. A member of White Noise (the British comics collective comprising fellow arch-talents Ram V, Ryan O’Sullivan and Alex Paknadel), Watters has been quietly racking up an impressive C.V. with Limbo, a surrealist noir for Image with artist Caspar Wijngaard, as well as Deep Roots, an eco-apocalypse fable for Vault with Val Rodrigues, and, most recently, Lucifer for DC’s Sandman Universe. And it’s in dreamy Gaiman-esque territory in which we find ourselves here, a world full of arch, uncanny characters exchanging dialogue aloof and lyrical – a mode arguably more arthouse than grindhouse. But Coffin Bound is far too substantial to be accused of posturing. There’s a solid thematic foundation beneath this road to oblivion.
Watters cleverly reworks familiar road-movie aesthetics (dusty roads, gunfights, titty bars) into a kind of haunted pop-cultural wasteland. This netherworld is littered with broken mementos, dismembered mannequins, photos that reveal the truth only when they’ve burnt to ash, strippers who peel away more than clothes, and anguished punters paying to find meaning in it all. This burnt-out dumpster-fire of a world evokes the virtual realms of social media and fake news reportage, a world from which all human feeling has long since checked out. There's also the possibility that this could all be taking place inside Izzy’s head, an empty lifetime flashing before the eyes of a dead woman. Crucially, Watters sets the stage and lets the subtext speak for itself, inviting you in rather than shouting you down. The writing here is at once giddy, engaging, provocative and genuinely mature.
The artwork by Greek indie sensation Dani? A knockout! But then I’m biased as I’ve written for Dani on a couple of projects for Rebellion. Her style has a smoky, sensual quality, rich as charcoal, somewhere between R.M. Guerra and 80s Frank Miller – perfect for the stark mortal theme of this book. Her character designs are terrific too. The Eartheater and arcane poet Paulie Starlight are both cosplays waiting to happen. Dani is another super-talent deservedly gaining ground. Both Coffin Bound and her forthcoming movie/comic book project Girl With No Name are certain to attract a wider audience for her incredible work.
As violent, grungy road trips go, Coffin Bound #1 is certainly more Kerouac than Tarantino, but it’s an exhilaratingly heady trip, as inviting and intoxicating as a mirage and the next three issues promise even greater rewards. Terrific work, guys!