The cover to this issue is one of the more clever ones I’ve come across lately. With the bloody hand ripping through the rustic portrait of a home, the central idea of the book is communicated. Each successive cover of the series reveals the intrusion to be bigger as more of the man ripping through is shown. “Severed” is a horror comic and is rooted in the idea of something forcibly disrupting and imposing itself on the world while revealing that what everyone thought was the truth was merely the surface of things. Here, a hand is ripping through the cover, both disrupting the picture of the house and showing it to be a picture, a falsity, not the realty. And like the gradual revelation through covers of this intruder, this first issue shows that it will be a slow build as the horror creeps over the reader bit by bit each month.
The issue itself begins with a disruption that reveals a lie. An elderly man receives an envelope that was given to his grandson and frantically demands to know who dropped it off before narrating “I tell people I lost my arm in the War. Even my wife doesn’t know the truth.” It’s an immediately engaging way to introduce the story and flash back to 1916 and a young Jack Garron as he plays the violin. Set to go to a prestigious prep school, Jack, instead, runs away to live the life of a hobo in search of his birth father.
At the same time, a young boy, not even a teen yet, is given over to a man that the older Jack calls ‘The Nightmare’ in his narration. Ostensibly, this Mister Porter is apprenticing young Frederick for General Electric in sales. However, it’s apparent that not all is right, partly because of Jack’s narration, partly because of the look of him, and partly because of the way he talks to Frederick. He reinforces the book’s central theme by telling Frederick that appearances and realities are not the same thing. For instance, Mister Porter tells the boy “Behind these pearly whites, I got razor sharp teeth,” a line of great import, figuratively and literally.
Jack’s running away to ride the rails reveals another disparity between appearance and reality. He views the life of a hobo as glamorous and free, but quickly learns the truth when the porter of the train he hops aboard discovers him. Again and again, Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft emphasize the central idea of this book and do so in compelling, entertaining scenes.
Of course, with art as gorgeous as that provided by Attila Futaki, one has to wonder what lurks beneath the surface. Immediately, the crisp line work and ability to capture the realism of the world without sacrificing storytelling is apparent. There’s a painterly quality to the way he draws and colors in this issue, almost evoking a Norman Rockwell aesthetic at times. This is obviously meant to look like a picturesque world, allowing for the nastiness of certain scenes and characters to shock even more. Mister Porter is drawn in a more shady, sketchy style than other characters; not by much, just enough that it’s noticeable.
The biggest flaw that stands out in “Severed” #1 is the possibility to setting up too much of a horror, something that Snyder, Tuft, and Futaki can’t deliver on. That opening scene grabs you right away, but it also promises something so horrifying as to warrant the reaction from the older Jack. Basically, this is a very impressive comic and it sets a high standard for the series after this point. I guess that’s the nasty underbelly of a first issue that’s a great read.