Severed is a viscerally scary graphic novel. Set in 1916, it is the tale of 12-year-old Jack Garron, who runs away from the home of his adopted mother with one dream: to find his father, a wandering guitar player. Instead he finds a nightmare: A serial killer with razor-sharp teeth who preys on children.
It’s hard to make comic books genuinely frightening. They lack the immediacy and realism of movies. They also can’t get into your head the way prose novels can, turning your own imagination into a fear factory.
What makes Severed so chilling is its realism; its unnerving depiction of a harsh early 20th century America where poor children were rarely truly safe. In that way, it’s reminiscent of the eerie movie classic, Night of the Hunter. No child protective services. No “safety net.” No food stamps. No Amber alerts. Even before Jack faces the monstrous maniac, he is exposed to dangers such as railroad hobos who try to molest him. A roving predator who feeds on the dreams – and flesh – of the innocent is made entirely believable. The grisly saga unfolds with inexorable logic.
While 30 Days of Night employed an expressionistic style to convey a sense of the supernatural, the artwork here is naturalistic, in keeping with the text. The layout
is highly cinematic, the framing so akin to movie camera angles that the pages look a lot like storyboards. In fact Severed would make a terrific film, though an extraordinarily dark and nasty one.
This review was written by the author of the new thriller The Identity Thief.