Without a doubt one of the most interesting periods of American History has to be 36 year period between the “Battle at Wounded Knee” in 1890 and the formation the “US Numbered Highway System in 1926.The main reason why this era was such a compelling one has to do with the popular perception versus the actual reality of living in this time. Taking into consideration how American History is taught in the general school system, along with the end of the American Indian War, the 1890 Census showing us that the clear line of advancing settlement had ended and the Federal Government moving towards exercising over the region, the case for the American Frontier ending in this decade is a strong one.
However, when one takes a further look into how life was lived during this period, the question of whether the American Frontier ended at the widely accepted timeframe comes into play. For starters, while the west was deemed settled, there would be livable territory that would not be utilized until an overall cheaper method of transportation would be available in the car, making the Highway System so vital to this country’s development. More importantly, while there was a national communication system, it was nowhere near as advanced as the one we have today, making identification beyond a small region of land that much harder. In turn such circumstances made it possible to manufacture a new life with just relocation to another area in the country. It was those two notions that made Severed #1 such a highly anticipated comic for me. With such a strong concept, the question of whether the creative team could deliver on the promise remained to be answered.
Being set in a period where the United States (and the world at large) feels much larger than what we are accustomed to, any story told in this period that uses the atmosphere correctly has a great chance of enhancing the story told, something that is most definitely the case here. True to form, Scott Snyder (being joined by Scott Tuft) is able to make the story engaging by using the setting to establish engaging (if not fully 3 dimensional) characters in this first issue. Seeing what the two main characters aspired for in life was a nice touch that helped to center the story.
The time period also helps to enhance the story experience, as the feeling of isolation (geographical and otherwise) helps to add a sense of danger to both storylines. Unlike in our time, the world is still quite disconnected, making it an excellent breeding ground for myths and fearsome horrors, something that’s used to ramp up the suspense of the story at large. With that being said, my one concern writing wise is that the horror story will take precedence over the meaty social movement theme that drew me to this book. While another good horror story would still be a plus, I just think I would enjoy this better if the adventure to find one’s self in this time gets equal billing.
Make no mistake, this aspect is going to play a huge role in deciding whether this book succeeds or not, and thankfully the art team comes through. Being led by Attila Futaki, the art in “Severed” definitely lends itself very well to the story. The contrast of colors between starting scene in the 1950’s and the subsequent scenes in 1916 give us an excellent contrast of the shape of the world. The coloring of the 1950’s scene plays off the era as a more vibrant and optimistic time (Elvis’ interjection into the scene plays into the cultural dynamics going on at the time) that America is enjoying in its earliest days as a Superpower. In contrast, 1916’s coloring uses a dimmer shade that gives off the energy of a world that’s divided between the hope that the undefined American Dream gave and the Shadows of War that loom across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Thanks to this attention to detail, the overall work benefits.
My Final 22 Cents:
If I had to compare titles, I would definitely “Severed” is a lot like “The Red Wing” in that both titles have a very interesting concept/setting. However, unlike The Red Wing’s first issue, “Severed’s” was able to do enough with its protagonists to make me want to follow the story more, proving that a great concept always works better with good storytelling fundamentals. Overall “Severed” #1 provides quite the engaging story that I can’t wait to see which direction it takes. Even if the creative team falls through with my principal hope, it’s quite likely the story will prove to be one that’s easily recommended to anyone looking for more Scott Snyder work, or just a good horror story.
Final Judgment: 8.5