Publisher: Top Cow/Image
Writer: Robert Napton and Seamus Kevin Fahey
Art: Christian DiBari
Letterer: Troy Peteri
With under a month to go until Halloween, Top Cow and Image have timed the release of Cutter perfectly. Writers Robert Napton and Seamus Kevin Fahey, along with artist Christian DiBari, have created a new spin on the horror vengeance genre in which the past actions of a group of former classmates literally come back to haunt them; when a serial killer begins ticking off a list of victims, the survivors are conditioned to look back and address the horrors of their past behaviour.
General good guy Jeremy Samuels, living contently with his pregnant wife Helen, is questioned over his knowledge or connection to the murders of his former high school classmates. What becomes clear to us is that these are vengeance killings, with the culprit cutting their victims and themselves afterwards. We see a long list of victims, indicating there is much more bloodshed to come in Cutter’s next three issues. The responsibility falls on Jeremy and the town sheriff to investigate and put a stop to the perpetrator, with readers questioning what it was the victims did all those years ago and how exactly the killer is walking among them at all.
The back-from-the-dead vengeance story may have been done tirelessly, but it’s always a fun concept: everything happens for a reason, and it’s always fun to decipher what makes the villain tick/kill mercilessly. Cutter’s capacity to prove itself as a fresh and compelling interpretation of the genre depends totally on how Napton and Fahey continue in this four-part series and whether or not they succeed in escaping tired B-movie archetypes.
Despite being a new take on the vengeance-killing concept, the dialogue occasionally veers towards the clichéd or unimaginative; while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, each character’s lines are generally forgettable and, aside from Jeremy and Helen’s pre-murder-discovery chat at the beginning, exist solely to propel the story forward quicker. The story often jumps to and from the past in intense flashbacks, which, while effective in giving us further insight into what may have led to the series of murders, can prove quite confusing and distracting for the reader. This isn’t helped by the black and white illustration nor the fact that flashbacks aren’t so clearly marked out as being such.
Cutter’s black and white illustration adds much to the creepy, gripping feel of the comic. While illustrating the comic in colour may have been more visually compelling and would enhance the narrative in some respects- especially when you consider the gorgeous colour work DiBari has done for the cover- black and white arguably accentuates the horror vibe Napton and Fahey are trying to create.
DiBari’s illustration is interesting if slightly inconsistent: the lines can be sketchy and almost haphazard- which works well in creating tension and a sense of urgency but at times makes the panels look almost unfinished- while some panels are more clean and polished. The characters in design are similar to those of Tony Moore’s in fellow Image title The Walking Dead, creating characteristics like ashen, angular faces; the gritty character design accentuates the grimness of the story, and the scenes featuring the killer in particular are exquisite and arguably the highlight of the issue.
While not perfect, Cutter is overall a fairly good read that reminds us of why we love suspenseful, thrilling horror stories. While the plot or concept may not be totally original nor ground breaking, the coming issues will hopefully reveal more twists and turns that will ensure Cutter isn’t the latest banal vengeance horror to throw on the pile. And if the reader takes anything from the first issue, it’s a reminder to mend bridges with anyone you weren’t super nice to in school. You never know when you might bump into them again…