CUTTER by Robert Napton, Seamus Kevin Fahey, Christian DiBari, and Maan House
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
CUTTER may have some issues with rushed plots beats. However, the art and writing create a visual horror story that cuts to the heart of what makes the Slasher genre great. Buy this book if you love horror!
88 %
Atmospheric Horror at its Best
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It’s that spookiest time of year again, and true fans of horror are looking for the scariest comics to read. Halloween may be tricks and candy for a lot of people, and more power to them. Give me your Freddie Kreugers and Pinheads, your Leatherfaces and Jason Voorhees. For me, Halloween is all about scaring myself silly, and, to do that, I need the best horror comics money can buy. Publishers across the board have a lot of great contenders, and even more come out every Wednesday. This week, Image is putting itself in the race to win over my Halloween heart with its all-star slasher comic, CUTTER.

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CUTTER follows the story of Jeremy and his life in Hatfield, North Carolina, a typical American small town. Jeremy knows all of his neighbors. Hell, he probably went to school with 90% of them. But in such a tight-knit community, secrets become deadly. Years before, a young woman named Emily Higgins died in a terrible barn fire. She died unhappy, after years of bullying and psychological care. Now, a mysterious killer has arrived in Hatfield. This killer cuts her victims to shreds, gaining her the alias “Cutter.” And when each of the men and women guilty of bullying Emily Higgins reveal that they have been threatened too, he realizes that maybe the dead don’t stay dead in Hatfield. Is Emily Higgins back from the grave to enact her revenge?

Slasher Manual

Cutter
Courtesy of Image Comics

CUTTER is a fantastic horror comic book. For slasher horror films, the gore factor acts as the main horrifying element. There’s nothing truly scary about a slasher villain. Typically, these characters fit into the archetype of monstrous, disfigured men with chainsaws or machetes. These characters carry a certain level of menace, but I wouldn’t say they’re scary, per se. All that is changed in CUTTER. Writers Robert Napton and Seamus Kevin Fahey, alongside artists Christian DiBari and Maan House, manage to create a story that drips atmosphere and introspective character moments. This is a story where the villain is terrifying, but the people she kills can be just as evil.

I think that aspect — that none of these characters are innocent — truly defines CUTTER’s strength. Whether we look to bullies that harassed Emily or the men who treated her like trash or even the friends that stabbed her in the back… While some of the failings of others may seem childish, they only added to the trauma experienced by Emily. For once, we have a slasher villain with an iota of motivation. She isn’t simply killing for some supernatural rite or because someone taught her to. Cutter kills for revenge.

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Jeremy is a well-rounded character. While I don’t understand his desires to seek out Emily Higgins, his character avoids some major cliches. Jeremy has a pregnant wife. In most horror stories, this kindly woman would act as a moment of tension for the characters. Instead, Jeremy sends her away to keep her out of danger. There are so many character decisions that he makes that break the cliché horror protagonist expectations. As a result, his emotions feel real, as do his actions (outside of hunting a serial killer with no training).

Surreal Elements

Cutter
Courtesy of Image Comics

As mentioned, the atmosphere excels in this story. In terms of plot, the story clips along at an even pace, and Napton and Fahey manage to slow the story down considerably to accommodate the high-tension moments. Comics tend to be a fast medium, meaning that writers try to pack in as many events as possible. But these writers are patient. One of the story’s greatest sequences sees the potential Cutter victims banding together in an old army camp to bait her. This section takes up half a chapter, and over that time, tension builds past the breaking point. There are other sequences like this throughout that draw the story out for the sake of the scare.

With that said, these drawn-out moments lead to some areas where the story feels incredibly rushed. The first instance occurs when Sheriff Ed Morales visits Emily Higgins’ sister. The conversation takes a strange curve when Ed mentions a magnifying glass he and Emily used to burn ants. While the scene is creepy, there doesn’t seem to be any real point to the moment. It happens, and then it is over. There is no context to this and similar scenes occur throughout, which disrupts the otherwise impeccable flow of the story. This goes as well for the ending, which takes a surreal turn towards the anti-bullying themes. Again, there is no context, simply Jeremy watching over this scene, and it feels like a lot of the message was lost in translation.

The Art of Horror

Cutter
Courtesy of Image Comics

Christian DiBari and Maan House nail this horror narrative. Their artistry is impeccable, lending CUTTER the perfect dark, tense mood. DiBari illustrates the first three chapters of this story, and his style comes across far more stylistic than House’s. His character models are slightly more cartoony, and in this stark black-and-white book, those figures are startling. This lends to the factor of surreal creepiness to the opening chapters. When we watch men getting beheaded and Cutter lording over a cut-up body, it feels that much more terrifying because she doesn’t look wholly human.

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Maan House’s style, by contrast, comes out much more clean and traditional, which works well for the final chapter. In this chapter, we get to see the real woman behind Cutter. It isn’t a story about folk legends or fears anymore. It is about real human struggles and anger. The more heavily inked style lends itself to this far more serious atmosphere. Neither art style looks better on the page than the other. They simply carry different messages to the readers.

Final Thoughts — CUTTER

Climb under a blanket, turn down the lights, and prepare to scare yourself with CUTTER. Yes, there are some issues in the plotting of this story. In terms of what we’ve seen in the horror genre, though, this story has a far more grounded and interesting plot line. At its heart is a mystery. Who is Cutter? Is it truly the ghost of Emily Higgins? Not every question receives an answer by the end of this narrative, leaving you to think about it for days after. This is a fantastic horror novel, and — as long as you are not feint of heart — I highly recommend this read.

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