Image Month: Trading Up: Severed HC

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Scotts Snyder and Tuft and artist Attila Futaki take horror fiction to a frightening new destination.

If you’ve ever spent time on the road, you ultimately learn it’s more about the journey than the destination. Well, the same holds true for Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft’s creepy cannibalistic graphic novel Severed. The story opens on the hopeful suburban backdrop of Jack Brakeman, a young fiddler who has recently learned he’s adopted. After some correspondence with his musician father, Jack hops a freight train out of Jamestown to Chicago where his old man plays violin at the Majestic Theatre. Along the journey, Jack meets a fellow boxcar jockey named Sam, and the two stick together, busking for change to take a train out to Mississippi, where Jack’s father has mysteriously relocated.

But something happens that changes their plans. Sam mysteriously disappears, and so begins a horrific road of trails ahead of young Jack Brakeman after meeting a strange old man who stalks the great American landscape hunting down young boys and girls, devouring not only their physical bodies with a mouthful of shark-like choppers, but swallowing their innermost hopes and dreams as well. And anyone who carries a bear trap in the trunk of his car is strictly bad news.

Severed is certainly a gasp of fresh air in a genre that has been blanketed by various incarnations of cheap-thrill fright fiction, unveiling to us the true potential of horror.

This creative trio understands the conflictive themes of fear and freedom in a more literate way than most authors and film directors pushing out Saws and Final Destinations. Evoking some ghosts from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road –– it’s hard not to find correlations between Jack Brakeman and Dean Moriarty and their quest for an absentee dad –– Severed brilliantly stitches up the sharp divide between horror and literary fiction, shifting to a gear not many graphic novels are able of achieve.

Add to that Attila Futaki’s stunning artwork that truly captures a full sense of freedom and nostalgia that rides through this tale of early 1900s Americana. Futaki makes us fall in love with Jack and his plight on one page, and by the turn of the next, he’s stirring up a shriek at something as simple as a spooky old house, dilapidated by disuse and digesting unfathomable horrors that wait within.

Severed is an example of what all modern horror fiction should aspire to, and perhaps that is what Snyder and Tuft do best. Not horror, per se, as their friend and fellow author Jeff Lemire mentions in the foreword to this hardcover collection of issues #1 through #7 that most horror films are simply bad movies. No, the Scotts are expert craftsmen of the human condition. They introduce us to characters that we become invested in, characters we root for. In short, Snyder and Tuft give us backstory that we can cling onto from the first moment Jack jumps on the freight train to the final moment of realization forty years later.

A simple chiller tale might drop us on the road with half-eaten human remains in the first few pages. Not Severed. This is a sophisticated story that will linger longer than a short-lived gasp, one that will undoubtedly stay with you all through the night, lurking under your bed, beckoning you for one more read –– in case you missed something the first time –– and scaring you sleepless over and over again.

Severed HC, Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft (W), Attila Futaki (A), $24.99, Image Comics. Released April 11, 2012.

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  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Apr 12, 2012 at 8:57pm

    I reviewed the first issue and loved it. Now, I wan the tpb!

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