The first volume of David Hine and Shaky Kane’s The Bulletproof Coffin told a story–about an everyman subsumed by funny books, about pre-code comics, about “big two” quasi-monopolization, about creators’ rights–but the six-issue series’ appeal was primarily, aesthetic. Hine’s writing, arch and intertextual, yet poignant, was there to organize the colorful pop culture chaos and hammer Kane’s lumpy, wrinkled take on Jack Kirby’s iconic lines into something that at least, superficially resembled a conventional comic book narrative. Follow-up The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred is more of the same, and then some. A strange editorial credited to “Destroyovski” explains that this time around, the series will be “a fragmentary set of ‘standalone’ issues.” If the first issue, “Killer Inside,” is any indication, the one-shot approach has encouraged Hine and Kane to further transcend the restrictive demands of a serialized narrative, and just go nuts.
The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1 is dedicated to irreverent worker-bee cartoonist Basil Wolverton, and the story’s title, “Killer Inside,” is presumably a reference to gritty noir craftsman Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel The Killer Inside Me. Mashing-up these cult figures’ worldview helps to define the bizarro tone of this issue: Absurd nihilism rubbing up against the gorgeously, hilariously grotesque. The story follows hard-boiled detective, Johnny P. Sartre, and his female partner Ginger Palmer, as they investigate a series of disturbing murders, in which a different killer, on the first night of the full moon of every month, decapitates someone, and replaces their head with an inanimate object. These crimes are most certainly connected–but how?
Who cares! It’s all an opportunity for Hine to indulge pulpy, purple prose (“Shot-gun suicide-heads blown apart. Like over-ripe grapefruit. Month-old corpses bloated with putrefaction.”), and Kane’s pen to get gruesome and goofy, stacking dead squids, mirrors, and TV sets on top of headless corpses, and lovingly illustrate drips of blood and stubby lifeless bodies. A mid-issue dream sequence finds Detective Sartre imagining himself and Ginger as superheroes named The Shield of Justice and Lady Justice, fighting communist labor unions, and victoriously making love. An entire superhero narrative is told in seven panels across three pages, delivering all the giddy, sex and violence thrills of the Silver Age, while commenting on comics’ rank, escapist qualities and its propagandistic history.
“Killer Inside” tells the origin of The Shield Of Justice, though that isn’t clear until the final page. The issue wanders around in a paranoid, twisting turning murder mystery, bouncing between oversized panels and the always stalwart nine-panel grid, derailing for a lurid fantasy sequence, before announcing the Shield Of Justice’s “real-life” arrival with a triumphant, issue-ending, splash page. The opposite page though, is an equally arresting preview for the next issue–a blue-skinned suit-wearing jazzbo grins at the reader–and it immediately diverts your eye from what’s supposed to be a powerful, final panel. Turn the page and there’s an extra bonus pin-up of the Shield of Justice and Lady Justice. None of these images–the end of our story, an advertisement for the next month’s issue, off-the-cuff bonus material–take precedence over one another. In the world of The Bulletproof Coffin, it’s all part of the same candy-colored, meta-comics pastiche.