Other reviwers have mentioned that the first issue of this arc seemed to fall a bit far from the tree, quality wise. All that considered, “American Vampire” just passed the two year mark, and it has been consistently entertaining, so let us give it the benefit of the doubt and allow the creators the odd mediocre issue. The story picks up steam this month.
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
Skinner Sweet is back! And he’s hunting Hollywood vampires in 1954. But how did he survive the horrible events of Taipan back in WWII? Unlikely alliances are formed, secrets are revealed, and another name gets crossed off “The Blacklist” as the next major AMERICAN VAMPIRE epic roars on!
Perhaps the biggest strength and drawback to “American Vampire” is the book’s framing as a historical fiction. If you hate history, the premise might dull the appeal of the whole title. While the story is engrossing all on its own, history buffs can suss a whole different level of enjoyment out of this title by enjoying the nuances of background and the way Snyder uses historical events as metaphorical wrapping for his vampiric epic. The Nazi’s alleged fascination with the occult fueled “Survival of the Fittest.” 1950s popculture, advertising, and the Satanism Scare mix to give us the ‘Death Race’ arc. This arc is no different, and the name of the game is McCarthyism – only instead of Red-wearing Communists, it’s Red-drinking vampires on ‘The Blacklist.’
This issue bounces back to Pearl’s pre-vampire life in Los Angeles to set the stage, letting us know that this story is about trust. Appropriate given it was Pearl’s trusting nature led to her becoming a vampire, and now she has to trust her sleaze-bag maker, Skinner Sweet, to watch her back while they hunt Commun… that is, Carpathian sympathizers in Hollywood. This issue isn’t only about shedding a light on Pearl’s character though, as probably the single best line of dialogue from this book in months is about Skinner becoming cultured against his will during his extended lifespan. There is also a fantastic character moment between Skinner and Pearl that could almost be described as touching, if Skinner wasn’t such a pervert about it.
We also discover exactly why Skinner has seemingly transformed from a ravening monster to a collared agent of the VMS. Like any good narrative, this has seeds in events possibly long forgotten by the reader. Snyder’s ability to craft a narrative in the long-form is admirable, to say the very least. From a single issue standpoint, the story starts quiet, ramps up quickly, explodes in an orgy of violence, and then allows the reader to sink back into a desperate fade out. If the last two pages were taken out of this issue, it could be read by itself and be a satisfying one-off in the overall “American Vampire” story. However, those last two pages are a doozy of a cliffhanger and if you are following both this and the miniseries, now you have two horribly intense waits between issues. Damn you Snyder, and take my money.
On art duties, Roger Cruz was only an OK fill in. Sean Murphy and Dustin Nguyen have killed it on the minis so far, but American Vampire just looks best served Albuquerqe style. Its understandable that doing a monthly comic is time consuming and something one needs a break from now and then, but everytime Albuquerque takes a break from drawing ongoing “American Vampire,” the results are disappointing. The fight between the vampires and the natural predators in this issue is vibrant, with some gorgeously framed shots, and the sceens without bloodthirsty action are just as lovingly attented to. If there is one issue, it’s that two pages of Pearl taking down a gunman seems a little rushed, or badly inked, or something. The pages just seem kind of blurry and it takes one out of the reading experience for a moment or two. Thats it though, everything is is spot on for Albuquerque.
If the past few issues have left you a little skeptical as to whether you should continue picking this book up each month, this issue goes a long way to assuaging your fears. Also, the way the issue ends, it would be surprising if events in “Lord of Nightmares” didn’t start trickling into the main story over the next couple of issues. I could be wrong, but things just seem to be leaning that way.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Buy it. Support the fight against Carpathians with war bonds and “American Vampire.”