This week the Review Group gets its' teeth into Severed #1 from Image Comics and Scott Snyder.
The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse's Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.
It's an Image book this week, as American Vampire and Detective Comics writer Scott Snyder spreads his wings and flies into the Independent sky.
Story - Scott Snyder is one of those writers who's rapid ascent up in the industry proves that comics really isn't as closed-off and insular as many think. 2 years ago nobody had heard of this dude, but then, with a little help from Stephen King, his American Vampire was hitting headlines and becoming one of Vertigo's biggest sellers. Now he's set to write Batman and Swamp Thing in the new DC relaunch, and American Vampire is doing so well as to earn a tie-in mini-series. But up until now all of his work has been for one company, DC/Vertigo, can Snyder make the leap to Image Comics and the world of Indies? You're dam right he can.
Snyder, and co-writer Scott Tuft have put together a really interesting book here, and one which horrifies and delights in equal measure. One of the best things about American Vampire is how skilfully Snyder melds American history with horror and Vampires. In Severed, the two Scotts do the same thing, but with a different type of horror. Whereas American Vampire is dealing with, well Vampires, the more supernatural side of horror, Severed is about more realistic dangers, and a very human terror. Snyder and Tuft effectively combine this with a pitch-perfect depiction of Great Depression-era America.
I've always been fascinated by this era of America's past, I know we are in a depression right now, but that first one just seemed so much better. Obviously it was a fucking terrible time to live in, but there's something romantic about it, the way people like Woody Guthrie sing about it and John Steinbeck write about it, just make it seem somehow beautiful. Just like Michael Scott (we even share a birthday, March 15th) in The US Office, I have a secret desire to ride the rails as a travelling Hobo. Which is what our young hero does in this issue, and the scenes where he jumps onto the train are just a delight.
Those scenes are contrasted well with another young boy, who believes he is getting a job at General Electric, and is driven by his benefactor out into the woods. The sense of fear here is electrifying, you know something bad is happening, but you don't know what. The best horror is a slow-build, a creeping dread, and then a release of shock. And the last page of this issue is certainly a release.
I do have one quibble with this book, and it's the structure. The book opens in the late 50s and early 60s, and then flashes back to the even further past. I kind of question the wisdom of showing that our main character survives the story (albeit not without losing an arm), it kind of lessens the suspense if you know he survives to a ripe old age. Although there is a story going on in the 'present' too, so there may be some suspense there.
Severed #1 is a great book, and apart from one small problem, I'd heartily recommend it, if you're a fan of Snyder's DC work, then stop out of Warner Brother's loving embrace and into the arms of Image, and if you're a fan of horror, then this is one of the few books of that genre on the market that is actually pretty scary.
Art - Attila Futaki is an artist I am unfamiliar, but apart from having an awesome name (Attila! Bad-ass!), he proves himself to be a great artist here. His art has a painterly feel, and at times reminds me of Norman Rockwell paintings, but a bit less clean and shiny. It evokes America's past, but still conveys the horror. I think this guy might have a bright future ahead of him.
Best Line - 'Behind these pearly whites, I got Razor Sharp teeth'
I love the artwork in Severed #1. It has a great, painterly feel, and the body language, textures, and sense of place are fantastic. It's a really sharp-looking book. Attila Futaki really captures the period of the story very well. The story juggles a lot by switching time periods, locations, and characters, and it all makes sense thanks to Futaki. That's not to say that the writing isn't up to par. Scotts Snyder and Tuft craft and interesting, well-paced story that's builds up the creepy tension and establishes a lot about its characters very efficiently. I really liked this issue a lot.
This was good, not the best horror comic I've ever read, not even the best horror comic from last week (Rachel Rising, OBV), but pretty good nonetheless. I liked the art a lot, but the story itself failed to completely pull me in. The creators feeling the need to tell me how special and unique their comic is was a bit off-putting as well. I would have liked it more if there was a possibility of the orphan hobo kid being eaten at the end.
SEVERED #1 is a slow-paced but atmospheric opening issue. The book begins in the late 1950s, with an old, one-armed man receiving a mysterious note. His family asks him what's inside and he begins to tell them about his childhood during World War I. The rest of this issue is a flashback of a 12-year-old boy who runs away from home to ride the rails and play music with hobos.
Writers Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft do a great job of introducing characters and filling the story with odd little details that somehow make the issue both more interesting and more believable. In the 1916 flashback, for example, there is a brief discussion on light bulbs, which would have been, apparently, still a novel technology back then. I'm not sure if light bulbs will be somehow important to the rest of the story -- I doubt it -- but I appreciate these extra details that Snyder and Tuft add to the story. It gives readers a better sense of what things were like in 1916, and makes it seem such a distant, almost ancient time compared to today's overstimulated, completely electronic world.
This is, ultimately, a horror story, and Attila Futaki produces exceptional illustrations that have the same feel as Bernie Wrightson's horror work. Futaki, like Wrightson, does not use crisp, ruled lines. Everything is either rough or wilted looking. Nothing is healthy, new, or strong. Futaki also includes rich details in every panel -- the old country houses, the gnarled trees, the primitive vehicles -- and creates a vivid, early modern world. The muted colors give each panel the look of sepia-tone photos, which only makes the story feel older.
SEVERED #1 is not a page-turner. You will not be reading rapidly to see what happens next. Rather, you will slowly move from panel to panel, reading the strange, dated conversations and taking in the beautiful art. Overall, I like the pace and style of this issue, and I look forward to seeing where this story goes next.
Snyder is firing on all cylanders right now. His style of story telling is so strong it can't NOT draw the reader in. The art is top notch with some minor issues that do not distract from the story or the pretty pictures at all. I'm sold on this one. I don't think I'm going to wait for the trade.
My Score: 9
I am glad I caved to picking this book instead of going Juding the group with The Infinite. This book was a gorgeous slow burn of a book. Was it scary? No but it was atmospheric and just something special. I really loved this book and look forward to the next stages of this story. Really the scariest thing about this book is when is the Scott Snyder backlas going to start? Certainly not with his batman work, not with his creator owned work? So then what? Will he jump ship to marvel and that's the moment he will probably be done.
This was an ok start to what I hope is a much scarier story. Snyder attempts to do everything he talks about in the back of the issue: slow build, primal fear, forboding atmosphere, etc., but for some reason it fails to all come together for me. The art is solid and the premise has potential, but in the end for me it felt like the horror equivalent of a side-show fun house: distorted reflections and cheap thrills. I've enjoyed his Detective Comics so I don't doubt the stakes will rise, but I'm probably not enough of a Snyder convert to be open my mind to the creepiness that's supposed to be in this issue.
Very positive this week, surprisingly positive. I'm sure that the RG will be a lot harsher to Snyder next week when we review Detective Comics, because we hate superhero comics almost as much as we love Indie comics. Fucking snobs. Anyhoo, Severed #1 got an almighty average of 8.26. Click here to read the full thread, which includes a discussion about when exactly the great depression was, and also some kind of meaningless argument. So just like every week then.
Written or Contributed by: Niam Suggitt