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Creepy, Cool "Severed" Explores the Dark Side of Childhood


There’s a tendency to idealize childhood, to see it only as
a time of innocence and discovery. Bright and sunny days filled with play. But
for all but the luckiest of children, it’s more than that. It’s also a time to
be really, really scared.

When you’re a child you’re always at the mercy of people who
are bigger than you, people who have nearly complete power over you. These
people have motives that you can’t hope to understand, desires that mystify
you. If you’re really unlucky, you may become the subject of these unknowable
motives and desires.  You can see how
that could make one nervous.

Severed, a very promising new Image comic from writers Scott
Snyder and Scott Tuft and artist Attila Futaki, captures both of these faces of
childhood beautifully.  It holds both the
wonder and the deep fear that fairy tales manage to instill in kids at the same
time, especially since the boogeymen and big bad wolves seem uncomfortably
realistic.

Severed is set in 1916, a time that is often referred to as
more innocent but, as illustrated in the comic, was anything but under the
surface. The first issue focuses on two boys. The first is Jack Garron, who we
know won’t get out of his adventure unscathed because the comic opens in the 1950s
and Jack is missing an arm, an arm that he admits he didn’t lose in a war during his interior monologue.

Jack receives a mysterious letter and the rest is told via
flashback. Jack’s story in the first issue involves him running away from the
safety of home and his loving, doting mother to become a hobo on the road. His
boyish fantasy soon collides with reality as he encounters adults who have
their own intentions for him, including a violent encounter with a homicidal
railroad cop.

But Jack is extremely fortunate compared to poor Frederick,
an orphan who only hoped to make a good life for himself as an apprentice.
Frederick is given over to the care of Mr. Porter, who immediately takes
Frederick out to a secluded location for a “lesson” that’s truly creepy and frightening.
Mr. Porter tells Frederick that he has two sets of teeth, one that he lets the
world see as a salesman and another that belong to his true self. Unfortunately
for Frederick that’s not just salesman hyperbole.

This series is quite well-written. It does a good job of
building suspense and the dialogue sounds natural. Some slightly overly
dramatic interior monologue is my only complaint. It’s also a nice and fresh
idea and setting; it’s nice to see a horror story that seems to be looking into the
dark hearts of people rather than pulling out your standard supernatural cliches.

Futaki’s art is quite beautiful. It’s very different from
your standard over-muscled superhero art. There’s almost a watercolor look to it that does a great job of evoking
the time period. His characters are also very expressive, or blank-faced when
necessary to evoke the cruelty in their hearts, and he does a good job of
illustrating action.

If you can remember what it was like to be young and scared,
even just a little, I think this book will really speak to you. It’s a very
fresh new series and I recommend picking it up.

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