Book of the week: The Bulletproof Coffin

This week I’ve had the pleasure of perusing comic book pages graced with the polar opposites in comic book art styles: From the trippy visuals of Shaky Kane, to the instantly classic linework of Art Adams and the wonderfully dynamic photo-realism of Ben Oliver, sprinkled with some Immonen and Kubert. And to top it all off, I read Dark Horse’s Creepy nr. six with art by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and (OMG!) Neil Adams.  Really, the art of the comics I read this week was amazing. It goes to show what a very good time it is to be a fan of this medium.

Book of the week: The Bulletproof Coffin
Picked up on a whim because of the wacky title, I was pleasantly surprised by this six issue Image series by David Hine and Shaky Kane. The main ingredients of this book are modern day individualistic animosity, a LSD-trip gone bad, a brilliant satire of the works from publishers like EC, a commentary on creator rights and a surprisingly heartwarming story of never-ending zombie love. I don’t think any summary of this story does it any justice, but let’s just say that it explores what may happen when a comic book reader finds a way into his favorite classic comics like The Unforgiving Eye, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, Red Wraith comics, Shield of Justice and the Coffin Fly. Each of these characters are superb spoofs on the shockingly sensational silver age comics of the fifties and sixties.

Red Wraith, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, The Shield of Justice and the Unforgiving Eye

From left to right: Red Wraith, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, The Shield of Justice and the Unforgiving Eye.Left bottom corner Golden Nugget heroes in better days, with the Coffin Fly on the right. Images from the Bulletproof Coffin, published by Image comics.

The protagonist Steve Newman is a voids contractor with an interesting job perk. The night before his company empties the house of a recently deceased resident, he enters the house to look for any valuables which he may save from ending up as landfill. This is a great benefit for Steve because he is a collector of pop culture paraphernalia. At the beginning of the book he makes the catch of his life, when he finds a stack of comics that are published after the date of the series’ cancellation. He soon mysteriously finds his way into these comics as the masked vigilante Coffin Fly. Roaming the endless plains of the far-flung feature in his Bulletproof Coffin ‘trawling up forgotten artifacts from a bygone age’. This is where he meets the time traveling heroin Ramona  and gets involved in a struggle to save the earth which can succeed only if he reaches the creators David Hine and Shaky Kane…

Not only do the single issues of this series include a pseudo silver age gem, which is read at the same time the protagonist reads them, there is also some bang-up back matter in the first five issues. The first one reprints a retelling of the history of Golden Nugget comics, the fictitious publisher of these mysterious comics that Steve finds, and the team of Shaky Kane and David Hine that made them great. The fact that this story is blatantly ripping of the story of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ,the creators of the Marvel comics universe, combined with the fact that Kane and Hine are in fact everything but fictional, gives the whole package a weirdly surreal vibe. If you don’t like the meta stuff, stay away from this series. If you do, you’ll find yourself lost in these stories within stories with great mysterious twists and turns around every corner. If you like your comic book art to be exclusively of the mainstream variety, you best not pick this up too. However if you like something else for a change, Kane’s psychedelic combinations of hard lines and harsh colors is very likely something you’ve never seen!

Average scores of the six issues: Art: 8.7  Writing: 8.8     Overall: 8.75

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