"Severed" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Illustrated by Attila Futaki
2012, 200 Pages
Graphic Novel Released on April 11th, 2012
1916. A time when a kid could get by riding the rails and playing a fiddle. It was also a time before we had sick weirdos preying on children...or was it? Severed, the mini-series written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, delves into one such being. Known under several different names, "The Salesman" has been eating children for some time and he's just set his sights on young Jack Brakeman, an orphan hoping to find his biological father.
Severed is a story that's terrifying for a multitude of reasons. You know from the start that the Salesman is an evil man who is a cold-blooded killer. The beauty of the story and how it unfolds is that Jake has no idea. He truly believes that the Salesman, going by the name Alan Fisher, wants to help him find his father. This is what makes Severed so tense. It's like an unfair game of cat and mouse. You know that "Fisher" is going to make a move, but you're just not sure when or how. It makes the book very difficult to put down.
Jake befriends a young girl named Sam, who is masquerading as a boy to avoid trouble. Sam has been on the streets for some time, so her bullshit detector starts to go off the moment that "Fisher" starts in. Jake was raised in a peaceful foster home and still has an innocence about him. He can't think of a reason not to trust the Salesman. Admittedly, some of the stuff that "Fisher" comes out with should put up some red flags even for the most trusting people in the world. I mean, what sane man carries around a bear trap?
What ties this story together is the artwork of Atilla Futaki. First off, he drew some incredibly creepy covers for the series. Each showing a classic looking photo-realistic portrait with the Salesman trying to break through. As the series went on, the tears in the image got larger and "Fisher" got more ruthless, brandishing is sharp, blood-covered teeth until he finally breaks through with the final issue.
If the covers weren't enough to pull you in, the interiors should seal the deal. Futaki definitely did his research as he captures this time period beautifully. There's a nostalgic quality to his art and that's impressive considering I definitely wasn't around in 1916. He also shows the innocence in Jake, the slyness in Sam, and the two-faced madman in "Fisher." There are some terrific layouts throughout the book that allow for some great peeks into the Salesman's darker side. One that comes immediately to mind is when he and Jake are driving and the panel is actually broken right on his face, splitting it right down the middle. It's a subtle way of showing that this man has two sides and that Jake can only see one at this time.
Severed is one of the scariest comics I've read in some time. It does this without Lovecraft, zombies, or other monsters. It's done with humans and the evil that men are capable of. It sucks you in and you don't realize how close you've become to the story until it's too late and "Fisher" is ready to bite your throat out. At the very least, this book will make you think twice before accepting any help from a stranger.