Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quick Comic Reviews: Severed

Lets see how Scott Snyder does when he's not writing Batman

While superheroes are my bread and butter when it comes to comic books, I do also love a good tale of terror in sequential art form. I picked this one up since it is the brainchild of one of my favorite new comic writers, Scott Snyder, known mostly today for his excellent Batman work along with artist Greg Capullo, and his Eisner awarding winning series American Vampire (which I have yet to read). Severed is a rather unique book, blending elements of Stephen King style horror, with a roadtrip story; a combination that proves incredibly successful, and terrifying.

Plot Summary
Our protagonist is Jack Garron, a 12 year old aspiring musician who has decided to run away and meet up with his missing father whom he has been corresponding with via mail. After hopping on a train he meets up with another child named Sam, whom decides to accompany Jack in his adventures, seeing possible financial gain to be had through Jack's musical talent. Eventually the two encounter a mysterious salesman who offers to help them get to the next leg of their journey, however the man has a dark secret and Jack is about to learn the dangers of being too trusting.

Without spoiling anything, Snyder opts to reveal his antagonist's true nature to the reader very early on, thus forgoing crude scares in favor of raw tension and suspense, which is this book's shining point as it makes the scares throughout the book even more potent and memorable. In fact, I would go as far as to compare Snyder's narrative techniques to that of Hitchcock's, since he uses many of the same elements of tension, mostly in that we see that the proverbial gun is loaded and in plain sight, but knowing when it'll finally fire is a completely different story.

Our two child protagonists are very well fleshed out, three dimensional characters that we grow to like as we read more about them, and as a result we care about them surviving the danger we see them in, which is sadly a rariety in the horror genre these days with annoying protagonists that we don't mind seeing die. Most importantly we see development in these two, especially in Jack as we see the harsh reality of his new life on the road take its toll on the formerly sheltered child which brings us to the clear moral of this story, be careful who you trust.

On the negative side I do have to say that I found Jack a little bit annoying, not because of his behavior, but because of him being naive to the point of self-destruction. This kid is so dense that he practically never suspects that anything is up until its too late even in the most obviously dangerous situations; you could chalk this up to him being a rather sheltered child with no idea how dangerous the real world is, but I'm pretty sure most kids his age (even runaways) would have a little bit more common sense.

This is kind of a nitpick, but I do feel the need to address the rather...nasty moments in this book. There are several near occurences of child molestation on Jack's adventure, and while I don't doubt the sheer number of predators (especially in the 1920s), it seems a little off that practically every encounter with a violent individual nearly results in Jack being molested. It comes off as a bit mean-spirited and doesn't really add anything to this already dark story.

Art Design
Severed's artwork by Atilla Futaki is absolutely gorgeous, and perfectly reflects both the time period of this story, as well as its grisly horror. Characters are drawn realistically and are excellently detailed in practically every panel, and the backgrounds are beautifully dreary with very dim coloring. I warn you that this comic is not for the faint of heart due to the rather graphic nature of certain panels, so be prepared to see some rather violent moments.

Horror comics are rather hard to come by these day due to them being a niche within a niche, however if you're a fan of horror movies, I highly recommend this book, but beware, once read you'll probably want to sleep with the lights on for while.

Despite a rather annoyingly naive protagonist and some overly dark story elements, Severed is as good as horror comics get.

How to get
Severed is available in both hardcover and paperback formats from most bookstores, comic shops, and of course In fact you can read the first chapter for free here

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