Before deciding to become a member of a comic book club, I’ve never paid attention to this domain. While growing up, every comic book seemed to be superhero stuff that didn’t seem interesting. But I couldn’t be more wrong. I’m telling you, comic books are wonderful, intriguing, and thought-provoking. Of course, there are some bad comics or comics that are too repetitive, but you can find gems if you take a good look. For me, one of these gems is Severed.
Severed is a comic book that appeared in 2012, written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, and illustrated by Atilla Futaki. If you are a beginner, these names may tell you nothing, but I’m sure you’ll check their other works later if you’re going to read Severed.
Before jumping into the actual review, I must add that the comic has around 200 pages (split into seven issues), and it is a quick reading. However, you should not take it lightly as it explores deep themes. The genre is horror, but not your typical horror.
- The story
The setting is in the 1920s or so. A new beginning for America with new inventions that make life easier. Such examples are the electricity and the train (with its railroads which help you travel to fulfil your dreams). Everything sounds great until you think about the dangers, and sometimes the danger is not your psychopath or evil clown singing on the streets, but your deepest fears and secrets. It is that unsettling feeling from your mind when you feel like you are being watched. That hidden terror that does not let you live your dreams.
Jack is just a twelve-year-old boy who wants to spend his days on the road, singing with his father. But his father was not around for quite a while. Jack decides to make his dream come true when his father exchanged a couple of letters with him. Then the action unfolds, telling the journey of Jack. However, for an inexperienced boy, the road is full of terrors that he cannot foreshadow or understand. And so a thrilling experience is ready to be told.
So what are the core points of this story?
#1st thing: the atmosphere
What makes this comic book great is the atmosphere. If you ever heard about atmospheric horror, you know what I am talking about. It is the ability to write, illustrate or film a story in a way in which you get shivers down your spine from simple things. Such things are the dialogue, the silence, or the eerie feeling of the unknown. One of the things that might have scared you as a kid (and may still do) is not the actual monster, but the idea of the monster, of the danger, of something bad that should happen.
It is not a forced gimmick, but a characteristic that makes the difference between being constantly in a state of feeling uncomfortable, and waiting for a jump scare to come, so you can move on. You feel the fear even after finishing it due to the excellent pacing.
#2nd thing: characters (and character development)
Although the time is limited (probably, somewhere around a week), the characters grow. Especially Jack. You can see his transition from being a well-behaved, dreamy boy into someone who knows that reality can be deceiving and gritty.
The other character is, well, I’d better not talk about it. I’d rather let you savour it.
#3rd thing: dialogue
What I find quite hard to do in a comic is the dialogue. Your story is going to be told through lines and images. In my opinion, you must find a balance between those two. If you make your dialogue too metaphoric, it is going to be weird. If it feels forced, or cringe, your story will lose its whole point. Here, it is well-balanced. Natural, direct, tensioned, and scary at times.
- The visuals
I cannot praise this enough. The illustrator and the colorist worked hard to make a gritty strange, and charming comic. The lines and proportions are marvellous, and the setting is so good. Every detail about the ‘20s is there. When you go from one panel to another, it truly feels as if you’re watching a film. In other words, it is fluid.
The shadowing is probably one of the best that I have seen. I am a fan of using shadows not only for the aesthetics but also for the atmosphere or to point out the character’s nature. And what is truly amazing is how consistent the artwork is throughout the comic. This is what keeps the tension in place, what makes you stare at it for a bit.
The last aspect is something that I consider important in a comic, but I do not find it so much mentioned: the layout. The layout is what makes the reading of a comic more fluid and compelling. Here, the layout enables you to read it easily and be immersed in the story.
So, what are you waiting for? Go and read it.
If you want more awesome recommendations, check this out.