Overview

The Bulletproof Coffin #2

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The Bulletproof Coffin #2

Credits

  • Words: David Hine
  • Art: Shaky Kane
  • Story Title: "A Rat's Cage"
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jul 15, 2010

The beautiful thing about a book like The Bulletproof Coffin is that you never really know what you’re going to get when you crack the cover. This same quality makes a book like The Bulletproof Coffin a real pain in the ass to review.

When the creators are operating at such a high level, exploring the fringes of fiction and perception, within the confines of a medium that traditionally pushes these boundaries anyway, it becomes difficult to concretely define just what the hell they’re on about in the first place.

Last issue, David Hine and Shaky Kane ended the opening chapter of their macabre romp through the underbelly of western pop culture with an ominous cliffhanger of two miniature trolls in Halloween masks watching lowly “voids contractor” Steve Neuman uncover the costume of the fictional superhero Coffin Fly in a dead man’s house.

Well, it turns out the trolls were just Neuman’s twins playing around in his sanctum sanctorum of forgotten memorabilia but my point still stands. By constantly juxtaposing Neuman’s mundane life with the bizarre, shadowy Gold Nuggets universe, Hine and Kane inject the element of doubt into the audience’s perception of their first issue cliffhanger. Even though we’re all fairly certain the faces under the monster masks belong to Neuman’s little turds, the frequency and ease with which the creators transition between their twin fictional worlds forces us to question our perceptions of the plot and characters.

Not to mention the fact that none of this explains how the little gremlins were watching their dad sift through the detritus of a dead man on an obsolete, coin-operated TV…

Juxtaposition in The Bulletproof Coffin works on a couple of different levels. The most overt application of the technique is evident in each installment’s introduction of an old Gold Nuggets character in a short story in the middle of the issue. This time, Hine and Kane introduce their audience to the Shield of Justice in a brutal tale of crime and perversion. The story acts as a reference point for readers, a way of entry into the lost world of Gold Nuggets Comics, and paves the way for the creators to blur the lines between their particular fictional realities.

Once they open the door into the Gold Nuggets universe, Hine and Kane begin to fuse Neuman’s mundane 9-to-5 existence to the fantastic realms he escaped to his entire life. Suddenly, upon closing the 215th issue of The Shield of Justice, Neuman finds himself surrounded by decrepit, real-world versions of the twisted Gold Nuggets characters. They inform him that he’s been chosen to assume the mantle of the fallen Coffin Fly – chosen by the very costume of the dead hero, himself.

As the borders between the fictional worlds in The Bulletproof Coffin come crashing down and the Gold Nuggets universe becomes more real for Neuman, so too does the audience’s acceptance of its existence become more tangible. We hardly bat an eyelash when a hatch leading to Neumen’s long-sought escape from the ordinary appears suddenly in the ceiling of his attic, accepting it with the same cynical resignation as the protagonist.

And as Neuman climbs aboard his engine of death, we have no choice but to follow, tugged along by the undercurrents of our own need for escape.

Hine and Kane close the second issue of The Bulletproof Coffin with a more shocking cliffhanger than the ending of the first chapter, as Neuman seemingly fully transports himself into the fictional Gold Nuggets universe. It remains to be seen how long he will stay there. Logic dictates a return to the mundane world of spoiled children and boring marital sex for Steve Neuman, if only to preserve the delicious meta-fictional tension.

That’s no guarantee, though. There’s only one thing of which we can be certain: this series, however it plays out, is shaping up to be one of the funniest, most thought-provoking, and thoroughly satisfying reads of the year.

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