By: Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft (writers), Attila Futaki (artist)

The Story: Jack and his cross-dressing friend start making their way to Louisiana by busking, using Jack’s violin playing. Then they run into Victor the Travelling Phonograph Salesman, version 2.0. He invites them to his apartment and starts feeding them liquor and playing bear trap games.

Review: It’s probably best to review this book in the context of the two that have come before and the four that will come after. We began with a framing narrative of an old man with one arm missing, and old man who was hiding the truth about how he’d lost his arm. Go back in time and we follow Jack and, in parallel, an orphan boy. Jack is exposed to the creepy, disturbed dangers of travelling unprotected. The orphan boy is partially eaten. Will the cannibal eat Jack’s arm? The story looked simpler in issue #2. Then, in this issue, they meet Victor, and Snyder and Scott really show that they know how to create suspense and sustain it. Throughout the meal, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. And the waiting turned into a cringe when the bear trap came out. I mean, WTF? I’ve maybe become desensitized to psychotics while reading Gotham books for the last two years, but Victor 2.0 brought in a whole new creepy, one that is as powerful in its way as the best of Grant Morrison’s early issues of Batman and Robin. Yet the tension in Severed is much more taut. There’s just not enough to be said about the writing of Severed as a perfectly paced, perfectly controlled story.

Futaki on art continues to summon the past and the ghosts that Snyder and Tuft are channeling. For example, the scripting is dealing with wary characters, who express emotion in less bombastic terms than most comic heroes do. The range of subtle expressions evoke those hesitancies, shynesses, encouragement, and lust. Jack’s first performance in the train station, from expression to body language, is a study in adolescent stage fright. Sam, his guide through the streets of turn-of-the-century America, is confidence and overconfidence, wary streetsmarts and unrequited puppy love. The touches of emotion are backdropped by period costumes and rumpled travel clothes, Victorian buildings and dirty streets. The villain is beautifully unhinged, and the bear trap scene was just…disturbing on all levels.

Conclusion: Snyder, Tuft and Fukari are making up the new old American horror. They’re looking to scare the shit out of us by taking parts of turn-of-the-century quaint legends, like the hobo, the travelling salesman and taking a man at his word, and revealing that our trust in the world is misguided. The results of misplaced trust are terrifying.

Grade: A-

-DS Arsenault

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