One of the standout graphic novels of 2013, SEVERED is a chilling, character-centered account of adolescent rebellion and bloody psychosis in a past era. It owes something to the Helen Eustis novel/Anthony Perkins movie THE FOOL KILLER (which was suspiciously similar in conception), but the gorgeous artwork, gripping narrative and strong characterizations place SEVERED in a class of its own.
The story is framed by Jack, an old man telling his grandson of a dark event that occurred in his childhood. The year was 1916 when 12-year-old Jack learned, via a missive he discovered in his attic, that he was adopted.
After corresponding with the author of the letter young Jack decides to run away from home to find his father, a traveling fiddle player currently stationed in Chicago. Upon arriving in Chicago, however, Jack discovers that his father has already left, occasioning further travels. Jack’s journey concludes in Mississippi, where his father supposedly resides, and where some dark revelations await.
During his travels Jack gains a traveling companion, a tough gal named Katherine who masquerades as a boy. Jack also meets Alan, a creepy old guy with some nasty proclivities who seems to shadow Jack’s every step. Alan is a psychopathic serial killer, in fact, possessing razor-sharp teeth he hides with dentures. Before this picturesque tale is done a lot of nastiness will have occurred, with a pivotal character shockingly dispatched long before the story’s end. Touching though SEVERED often is, it has a profoundly sharp edge, and a climax that’s the very definition of relentless.
In the restless Jack the writers Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft create a character who’s always worth rooting for, and in Alan a deeply menacing antagonist. Snyder and Tuft also evince real storytelling talent in their cinematic juxtaposition of wide shots and close-ups. Finally, the artwork of Atilla Futaki is instrumental to the book’s impact with its superbly rendered, period specific imagery.