REVIEW: The Bulletproof Coffin by David Hine and Shaky Kane
REVIEW BY Paul Hickey
About half way through the second issue of the collected ‘Bulletproof Coffin’ I felt the unnerving electricity of watching eyes. Like breath upon my neck I sensed I was being scrutinised by some invisible and calculating entity. I didn’t like it this feeling and, as I paused in my activity, rather than passing, it grew stonger. I looked about me, scanning the room to assure myself that I was indeed alone but still the sensation stayed, a quietly observing energy, its shadow pricking my skin. I bent my head to the comic, focusing more intently upon the psychedelic stylings of Shaky Kane, his boldly energetic linework and hotheat colour palette. The story, disjointed and disturbing, a tunneling helter-skelter from the mad cave of David Hine’s humuncular cortex. I retrieved my pen from the folds of the couch into which it had fallen and scribbled another note when suddenly a booming voice filled the small attic room in which I was ensconced, “HINE APPEARS TO BE DELIBERATELY TOYING WITH THE CONCEITS OF POSTMODERNISM IN A PARODYING EXPLORATION OF SELF-REFERENTIAL POP CULTURES”.
“Jesus Fuck!” I swore aloud as I lurched, sprawling from the sofa on to the dust-thick timber floor, fetching around for something to hide behind. “Who th..???what???… who’s there?” A ringing silence rebounded my words. Nothing! No one! I looked across at the comic, its pages bent and disturbed where it had dropped as I did to the floor. Something was very wrong here. Picking it up, I riffled quickly through its pages, taking in flashes of Kane’s wild vision, details of Hine’s self-birthing plot. I glanced at the sheet upon which I had been making my review notes and there, in red pen, my words, “Hine appears to be deliberately toying with the conceits of postmodernism in a parodying exploration of self-referential pop cultures”… Is this how madness begins? Had I imagined the voice, heralding my words from the ether? As I flicked through the book something caught my attention. The disinterested, insipid TV-gazing of the protaganist’s monstrous offspring, it echoed something about each of us. ”
THE REVIEWER REFLECTS THAT HINE AND KANE HAVE CONSPIRED TO CREATE A MASTERPIECE EULOGY IN LAMENT AT THE DEATH OF IMAGINATION” “Fuckin’ wizard shit…” the thunderous voice had exploded all around me. Not only had I heard it but had felt it as a physical force, it set my heart hammering like a fire in my chest with panic. Could this really be happening? “THE REVIEWER WONDERS AT THE FRAGILE STATE OF HIS OWN SANITY. ‘CAN IT BE REAL?’ HE ASKS HIMSELF. ‘WHAT COULD CONCEIVABLY ADDLE MY SENSES SO?’.” The comic falls from my limp fingers as sheer terror ovetakes me. “THE REVIEWER DROPS THE COMIC UPON THE FLOOR AS THE REALISATION CREEPS OVER HIM THAT HE IS HIMSELF BEING SCRUTINISED BY THE OBJECT OF HIS OWN SCRUTINY LIKE THE HUNTER IN THE LONG GRASS, TRACKED BY HIS OWN QUARRY.” “I…What?…But….” “THE REVIEWER FINDS HIMSELF UNABLE TO FORM EVEN THE SIMPLEST OF SENTENCES STRUCK AS HE IS BY A PAROXYSM OF FRIGHT. PERHAPS HIS INABILITY TO COPE WITH SITUATIONS OF MOUNTING STRESS HAS ITS ROOT IN HIS BOYHOOD LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN THE PUBESCENT DEVELOPMENTS OF HIS OWN BODY. HE WAS A SICKLY CHILD AND CARRIED THE KNOWLEDGE OF THAT BURDEN INTO ADULTHOOD SO THAT IT HELD A MIRROR TO ALL OF HIS MOST SEMINAL RELATIONSHIPS, PARTICULARLY HIS MOST EARLY CARNAL EXPERIENCES. HE FELT THREATENED BY THE POWER OF THE NAKED FEMALE FORM, A WEAKENING IN HIS KNEES, A SURGING IN HIS LOINS. WAS THIS YOUNG WOMAN GIVING SOMETHING TO HIM OR TAKING IT AWAY?” It couldn’t be, the comic – it was reviewing me. “THE REVIEWER IS OVERWHELMED BY THE POWER OF THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN READER AND TEXT IN REVERSE. TREMBLING ALL OVER HE LUNGES FOR THE DOOR BUT HIS GRIP TIGHTENS UNCONTROLLABLY UPON THE COMIC IN HIS HAND. HE FALLS WITH A DULL THUD TO THE FLOOR, HIS VISION FAILING, HIS SENSES A FORGOTTEN DREAM.” …From Doctor Upanishad’s notes on Patient 273: Papa Hotel. Subject was submitted for care by medical after he was discovered in an entirely catatonic state in the converted attic of his family home. Patient had no history of neurological difficulty or abnormality and there were no outward signs of any external trigger of attack. Patient exhibits no reaction to stimulus but peculiarly was clutching with rigour what appears to be a comic book entitled “The Bulletproof Coffin”.
Having perused the comic I can say that it is an intriguingly complex and wickedly funny work. The artwork by a Shaky Kane, reminds one of the harsh contrasts and explosively lurid songs of colour I experienced as an LSD test subject in the late 1960s. The story itself, penned by one David Hine, follows a man through an existential and psychological crisis of identity through a landscape of soul-sapping modernity in which comic books provide at first an escape but ultimately something much more profound and surreal. I shall be passing this comic book along to my colleagues with my highest recommendations but not before I read it onece more. Strange but it puts me in mind of that twisting, turgid river, snaking into the heart of darkness. One can lose oneself in it but even as you do you surface for a moment to the silence and the horror… the horror. The Bulletproof Coffin by David Hine and Shaky Kane – it’s brilliant and it’s fuckin’ bananas!
PAUL HICKEY BOUGHT THIS COMIC FROM DAVID HINE AT 2D AND THEREFORE FITS THE BRIEF OF IRISH COMIC NEWS. [tk]