Hey gang! There’s nothing like the panic of realising that you’re short on material for your column on a public holiday to drive you back into the vaults for something to talk about. I decided to delve way back into my collection, to the very beginning of my comics obsession, and re-read a book that I’ve loved for years.
This week, I’ve gone back to American Vampire volume one, written by Scott Snyder (Batman, The Wake) and Stephen King(!) and drawn by artist extraordinaire Rafael Albuquerque (Blue Beetle, Prodigy). I believe that I briefly spoke about American Vampire waaay back at the beginning of this column, but considering I don’t even remember what I wrote I imagine it’s not an issue for anyone.
Skinner Sweet is the most cunning, ruthless and outright evil outlaws in the American West. When he is captured by the law, he naturally organises his gang to break him out. What he wasn’t counting on, however, is that the man bankrolling his capture is a creature of the night made flesh – a vampire of legend. In the battle that follows, Skinner is thought dead, but a drop of blood from the vampire has created something new – the first American vampire. Decades later, circa 1925, Skinner is haunting the streets of Los Angeles. When Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress, falls foul of a nest of powerful vampires, Skinner takes pity on her, raising her as one of his kind and allowing her to take her revenge on the creatures that have long hunted him. The world could barely handle one American vampire – and now there are two.
American Vampire is a special kind of beast. It’s not often that a writer of the calibre of Stephen King dips his toes in the water of comic books – though his son, Joe Hill of Locke and Key fame is well-established – and the result is a great story that spans literal decades. King and Snyder pen two parallel stories that explain Skinner’s origins as well as continuing his story via Pearl’s revenge story. Snyder pens the 1920s arc, while King puts together Skinner’s wild west antics based on a story outline initially written by Snyder, which muddies the waters as to how much of the flair is King’s work versus Snyder’s outline. King also only contributed to the first five issues, which is disappointing, but it leaves Snyder to evolve the story and continue down the path that they set up in volume one.
Special mention has to be made of Albuquerque’s artwork – it’s absolutely perfect for the story at hand. The vampires are terrifying, and Pearl and Skinner certainly don’t fit the mould of your typical bloodsucker. His artwork is angular, gritty and his characters are amazingly expressive. Snyder and Albuquerque make for a very impressive combo, and when you throw Stephen King in the mix, you’ve got yourself a fantastic book. I’ve been a fan of American Vampire for quite a while now, and while it might have petered out a bit towards the end – after two separate runs, which is no small feat in a modern comics industry – I definitely recommend it. American Vampire is dark, bloody and a lot of fun – if you haven’t picked it up by now, definitely give it a read.
Written by Alastair McGibbon