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    Review: American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell

    By | June 14th, 2013
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    This series is back with a vengeance. “American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell” smolders in the hands of Rafael Albuquerque. His work crackles with action and sends up smoke signals of clarity, building tension as though all this pyromania is happening right beside a vat of gasoline. This 60+ page one-shot is sure to remind you of everything you love about this series.

    Story by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
    Written and Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque

    Two newly turned vampires are trying to fight the bloodsucking urge, but they’ve got a pack of angry vampires and one bad-ass vamp-killer on their tail. Fan-favorite character Travis Kidd makes his return in this AMERICAN VAMPIRE one-shot!

    The world of “American Vampire” lends itself so well to story that every new character we meet commands the attention of the audience immediately. Exploring humanity by ripping it away, the creative team who has engineered this dark and dangerous world has created a series of scenarios that forces characters to confront the best and worst parts of their nature. Characters reveal their darkest secrets, hidden pasts and greatest fears readily in this series. This kind of storytelling could create a sentiment of melodrama, but instead seems right at home in this high stakes world. The characters here hold nothing back, because more often than not the circumstances they are facing are life or death. That is the magic of “American Vampire.” We are thrust into a world that is so extraordinarily threatening that its inhabitants can reach out to one another, and to the audience, destroying the facade of safety and assurance, to reveal the depth they possess.

    “American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell,” takes advantage of that fact. Albuquerque’s skillful exposition introduces us to a pair of young lovers, Billy Bob and Jolene, who have come to Nebraska in 1959, hell-bent on making it to the altar. The couple quickly becomes sympathetic, mainly due to the realistic and sincere dialogue. Talking to one another about their hopes and dreams, they invite the audience to get invested just before their plans come to a screeching halt. Albuquerque also introduces a young orphan called Jasper, who seems to be much more than meets the eye. The three characters come together to form a ragtag band of runaways, who tug at the heartstrings of the readers who will surely be rooting for them by the issue’s end. The characterization here is natural. Choosing the right moments to provide insight into the people he’s creating, Albuquerque’s work in this issue seems to dust of the windows surrounding these character’s lives. Throughout this issue, he skillfully builds on subtleties, instead of cracking his audience over the head with obvious storytelling.

    One character, an orphanage janitor named Mr. Hendricks, is introduced with incredible concision and expediency. Even in this minor role, his story will resonate emotionally with the audience. What is true for the theatre seems true here: there are no small roles, only small actors. In the case of comic books it seems there are no small characters, only missed opportunities, and in “American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell,” no stone is left unturned.

    This issue boldly explores themes like justice, morality, and responsibility. In the war between good and evil the line dividing the opposing sides has never been more blurred. Travis Kidd makes a triumphant return, dispensing his own brand of justice. While the other characters struggle to determine what’s right or wrong in the light of the new challenges they face. Again and again in this issue the audience is confronted with stories of wrongdoings, justifications for those actions, and consequences that seem anything but fair. This issue draws questions about the moral grey in which we operate to the surface, provoking thought through its ambiguity.

    Back to its horror story roots, this issue of “American Vampire,” alludes to classic images from the genre. Albuquerque’s visual work is at its finest in this issue. He captures both intimate moments and gory violence with the same fine skill. Always dynamic and kinetic, his electrifying, moody style lends a voice to this issue that makes the experience of reading it all the more enjoyable. Bombastic lines, and expressive gestures carry the masterful depiction of this truly terror-filled tale. In this world, just outside of the everyday norm, his stylized work seems more real that realism. Evoking that dream, or nightmare-like sensation of blurred boundaries and undefinable dark shadows in a way that reminds us all what we were afraid of as children, his style sets the perfect tone for this story.

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    It’s a common teaching in literary circles that comedies end with a wedding or a feast, while tragedies end with a funeral. What does it say about this sensational book that it ends with both coming together seamlessly? This issue uses a fantastic plot full of action and anxiety to engage the audience emotionally and logically. Defying expectation, subverting tradition, and continually surprising the audience, “American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell,” represents all that is joyous about reading.

    Final Verdict: 8.9 – Gas up your car and slick back your hair and buckle up… this is going to be a fun ride.

    Sam LeBas

    Sam resides in Louisiana, and has a twang in her voice, even when her words are in print. Her first crush was Burt Ward. She reviews comics, writes features, and co-host podcasts at imageaddiction.net. She also blogs about comic books from a feminist, literary perspective at comicsonice.com You can find her on twitter @comicsonice where she makes inappropriate jokes and shamelessly promotes her work. Other than comic books, her greatest passions are applied linguistics and classic country music. She enjoys quality writing implements, squirrels, and strong coffee.