I hadn't originally intended to write any reviews for Comics Bulletin this week, planning instead to take some time off to work on a few other projects for the site. But that was before I read Severed #6, the penultimate chapter of the masterfully crafted, frightful Image Comics miniseries, one that has merely built on itself more and more with each subsequent issue. Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft just had to be lauded for the way in which they've followed through on their promise of slow burn horror, leading up to a sequence here so spine-tingling that I literally had trouble sleeping the night I read it.
(Okay, to be completely honest, some of that might have been an adrenaline rush from the really exciting college basketball game I had also just watched, but still. The point is: neither activity is one I would advise engaging in right before bed.)
As is the trademark of suspense done rightly, the thrills of Severed #6 are the cumulative effect of everything that has come before them. Those who've been following the series have essentially been sitting on pins and needles for five straight issues, nervously awaiting the day when the book's predator in disguise would finally strike against our protagonist, the young boy he's been meticulously stalking. That inevitable moment has arrived, Severed fans, and it's no less eerie regardless of from how far away you could clearly see it coming. Snyder and Tuft aren't out to surprise us so much as they aim to murder us with anticipation, steadily turning the crank of their terror-loaded jack-in-the-box. That said, they do manage to lull us into one final false sense of security before ultimately breaking things wide open, and, let me tell you, it's a doozy.
Plot-wise, this issue is also very much the product of its antecedents. Characters, objects and motivations have all been carefully placed throughout the series' previous chapters, finding either their true purpose or a secondary significance in this one. Remember the bear trap that haunted Issue 3? It surfaces again here, setting up the issue's most applause-worthy moment. The letters Jack has been receiving from his long lost father also play a major role, essentially serving as the lynchpin to the series-wide climax that this issue's ending provides. Through it all, it's impossible to forget the brief glimpse of the future we caught in the very first pages of Issue 1 and the grisly fate it foreshadowed for one of the characters.
Taken separately, the art duo of Attila Futaki and colorist Greg Guilhaumond might not impress, but together they're making absolute magic. Futaki's figures aren't always the sharpest or most tightly drawn, but they provide a wonderful framework over which Guilhaumond can set his muddy and dismal mood. And while the colors sometimes lack vibrancy and a clear contrast, those moments of turbidity simply serve to set up some truly striking visual reveals. Specifically, I'm thinking of the part late in the issue when a lit match illuminates the contents of a darkened room, where what shows up is most assuredly, 100% guaranteed to make you gasp aloud.
Having just weathered the annual storm of best-of-the-year awards, I was sorely disappointed to see Severed turn up missing on many sites' lists, Comics Bulletin's included. (Don't blame me, though — I voted for it!) How such a brilliantly constructed comic could fly under the radar — with an A-list creator co-writing it, no less! — is beyond me. Snyder and Tuft are writing a textbook on how to do horror/suspense, perfecting a formula capable of delivering goosebumps via any narrative medium.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!