Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bulletproof Coffin:Disinterred #2

I hate and I love. And if you ask how
I can do both, I couldn’t say; but
I felt it, and it shivers me.

            by Catullus
Translated by Charles Martin

Upon finishing the second issue of Kane and Hine’s Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #2, I too “feel it, and it shivers me.”

Kane and Hine set up irreconcilable factors in “Tales From The Haunted Jazz Club.” Three short tales haunt this single issue, and the tales are said to be true (but of course they’re not…at  least one really hopes they’re not) and yet “The Hands of  Clay” “Fixing Suzie” and “Hairy Inside” are…they’re…they’re just…weird. Lovers killing their beloveds, harmless statues evoking harm, a bald woman with a fear of hair wearing a hair jacket, superheroes and their secret identities, a beatnik dating a guy from tech school, all these factors, and other elements both disturb by their oppositions and yet at the same time intrigue.

 As for how the tales “can do both, I couldn’t say.” Hine and Kane manipulate the basic opposition in comics themselves, texts and words. They use this opposition to tell great stories that speak ineffable sensations without being preachy or pretentious but rather serious and simultaneously silly. These tales also give an answer to Catullus’s question of how someone can reconcile two opposite feelings. As a reader “I feel it and it shivers me.”

Kane and Hine create a nostalgic feel of Golden age comics (think EC’s Tales from the Crypt, and Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four) and yet combine this past style with a 21st century sensibility and style. I don’t know how, exactly, but the story and art doesn’t feel like an imitation, but an application and rearrangement of those earlier elements. Like the Golden Nugget publications themselves, the work is illusively allusive.

The contrast of the colors mirrors the paradoxes in the stories. After the interior cover page (we’re reading a comic within a comic) we have Edgar Landru introducing the first tale amidst a two-tone red background with hovering green quarter and eighth notes in the air. Red and green are contrasting colors…two opposed elements that somehow unify the story and set the tone for readers. The same with Landru himself, zombie-pale skin in a black suit.  Certainly the use of contrasting colors is no earth shattering move, and it doesn’t occur in every panel on every page in the book, but this color-contrast motif strikes the reader hard with the way fields of a solid color are used. No gradated changes appear, if Kane wants a shift in color you’ll be able to find a hostile border dividing the two tones (which won’t always be a black line), these colors combine like two clashing pendulums forever swinging their arcs into each other. And yet it creates a captivating effect for the entire issue, “I feel it, and it shivers me.”
These oppositions, while giving tension and a strong dose of the outré to the tales, go beyond merely setting up and pointing out oppositions. These opposing elements collapse into one another through the monstrous. Only something terrible (a something so disturbing it causes Jackson J. Jackson to mentally block it out. Once consciously remembered, J.J.J. suffers physical illness) can reconcile through paradoxes. 

In “Hands of Clay,” a wife’s complete (and erroneous) belief in her doctor husband’s abilities against the doctor’s own doubt and limitations concludes with an operation the doctor describes as “my awful work.” In “Fixing Suzi” a romance between a beatnik and a tech school student results in a stutter repaired by brain surgery. And “Hairy Inside” has two lovers who appear to have the same dislike of hair, until an ill-purchased idol causes one to search for a single hair of difference, and elaborate on this one difference and after a lot of stabbing, state “I’m here to warn you that there are monsters out there.” These stories offer the horrible as a solution to these warring feelings.  Shake your conventions and expectations up. Buy and read issue two.

I’m eagerly awaiting it and dreading it. I want to read about voodoo love, and I want to turn away, and if you ask how I can do both, I don’t know, but I trust the storytelling of Kane and Hine, and know it will shiver me.

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