Horror can be a particularly tricky genre to successfully pull off in comic books. In addition to the usual difficulties of different people finding different things creepy, the reader also has to find something unnerving in the artwork, which is especially difficult since it takes a special type of artist to be able to convey the horrific while simultaneously telling a story. The key is creating an atmosphere where the reader can believe just about anything awful can happen at any moment, and that's exactly what Scott Snyder, Scott Tuft and artist Atilla Futaki have accomplished in their Image Comics title, "Severed."
The critically acclaimed series follows 12-year-old Jack Garron as he travels the vast landscape of early 20th century America, doing his best to navigate the wide-open spaces and hidden dangers in an effort to find a father he never met while also befriending fellow traveler Sam. One of the many dangers happens to be the Salesman, a creature who offers intended victims everything they've ever wanted before turning on them with murderous results.
Creating a tense and horror-filled atmosphere, from the very real world threat of older, meaner people threatening Jack and Sam's lives to the Salesman's downright evil supernatural nature, "Severed" has plenty going on to give readers the creeps. The combined efforts of the Scotts creates the groundwork, but Futaki really brings in a whole different level of creepy thanks to an artstyle that adds a rich, ephemeral quality to scenes both gruesome and beautiful.
Since Halloween is just around the corner and things are starting to get spooky all over, CBR News is taking a day to celebrate ALL COMICS EVE. This is the perfect time to look through the first three issues of "Severed," presenting some of the moments that have made our skin crawl. Be warned, in addition to potential heebie-jeebies, spoilers lie ahead.
5. The Salesman Returns
The very first issue of "Severed" is set decades after the main action of the series, with the implied return of the Salesman to a much older Jack Garron's life. The look on the old man's face as he realizes that despite his best efforts and beliefs, he hasn't escaped the horror's of his past show off the series' deft storytelling. The camera's focus on Jack's one eye and his ensuing panic let us know that what we're about to read is some serious business.
4. Jack Vs. The Bulls
After nearly being thrown off a train in the first issue, Jack decides to go back for his stolen suitcase. In the process, he reawakens the hobos who want to take advantage of the young boy. Things get pretty intense for a moment or two, until Jack's soon-to-be friend Sam jumps in to save the day. Again, it's this mixture of real life horror with supernatural terror that makes "Severed" so effective.
3. The Sad Story of Freddy The Orphan
The mysterious Salesman makes his debut in the first issue, is introduced as Mr. Porter from General Electric, a man who's come along to give an orphan named Freddy a chance to work for the company. Thinking all his dreams are about to come true, Freddy is taken by Porter to an abandoned house where the villain reveals his true nature, the results of which we don't see until the second issue. As it turns out, the Salesman isn't just a murderer --he also seems to enjoy the taste of human flesh.
2. The Tooth About Mr. Porter
Before poor Freddy met his maker, Mr. Porter tells him point blank that he has shark's teeth. "I'm serious, Freddy," he says. "These babies are just for show. Underneath...my real ones are sharp as knives." Like Freddy, we weren't not sure what to make of this stranger, though we knew he wasn't up to anything good. By the end of the first issue, Porter shows not only his true colors, but also his true teeth.
1. The Salesman Appears
For two and a half issues, we follow Jack on his journey while the Salesman's story runs separately as he commits his dastardly deeds. Sure, their meeting was inevitable, but it's still a surprise when the Salesman pops up in the third issue, inviting Jack and Sam back to his place. Where he keeps a bear trap with which to capture intruders and test friendships. This splash page reveal, the looming sense of danger practically leaping off the page, is the equivalent of Michael Myers finally appearing to Laurie Strode in the original "Halloween." You knew it was going to happen -- you just really didn't want it to.
"Severed" #4 will creep onto stands on November 16.