AMERICAN VAMPIRE #1
What did the
Art and Cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE
Variant Cover by JIM LEE
Size: 40 pages
When I first heard about this book, I thought “oh, another vampire series,” and then I turned away. However, as I started to hear more about it, I became interested. Maybe this would turn out to be something worthwhile. Reading some of creator Scott Snyder’s short story collection, Voodoo Heart, also helped. I like this style, creating stories with a sense of the fantastic, but also a bit of darkness to them. To me, vampires aren’t the draw — it’s the execution. Tell me a good story with good characters, and it won’t matter if there are a gazillion vampires out there in pop culture right now.
So, how did Snyder and King fare? Pretty well, I’d say. This issue features two tales, and they both involve a lot of the requisite set-up, but I have to say I was fairly drawn in by the characters and settings in each.
With a title like American Vampire, I feel like the goal is to marry these two iconic ideas. What is the quintessential American tale, and what how does one bring the concept of the vampire into that tale, rather than just transplanting a European archetype into a new setting? I’m not sure this issue really answers that, but I can see that this is perhaps the goal of the series.
Not surprisingly, the actual vampirism takes a bit of a backseat in this issue, as both writers — in their respective tales — tackle two iconic American landscapes: Hollywood in the 20′s and the Old West.
Snyder’s 1920′s piece crackles with snappy banter and makes good use of its show business setting. The scenes move briskly, a bit shorter than I expected, but it does set up the world adequately. The heroine actually reminds me slightly of Dian Belmont in Vertigo’s Sandman Mystery Theatre series of the 1990′s — a young woman trying to make her way in the world. Vampires are introduced by this story’s end, and I have to say that there’s nothing yet in the actual use of vampires that feels very different. Yet. The cliffhanger ends in a nice spot, and I definitely felt invested enough in the character to see what happens next.
Stephen King’s tale follows, and it’s got a steadier sort of set up. He picks a smaller time frame, and allows all the action to occur over the course of a train ride. I think I liked the 20′s era dialogue a bit better, but there’s some fun to be had with our main character, the outlaw Skinner Sweet, as he taunts his Pinkerton captors on the train. This story ends with a seeming parallel to the first story, as the main character meets a fate that will chart the course for the series.
I also want to note that both stories almost feel a bit like old EC horror comics, and I don’t think that’s by accident. King even spotlights a narrator, telling his story to the reader. And with an extra page or two, Snyder’s story could have ended with a grisly fate and some sort of Crypt Keeper character making a pun to the reader about how the main character met her demise. This doesn’t happen, and this is a series with a different type of pacing, but there’s something about the way both stories were structured that almost felt like with some slight modifications, they could be short horror stories from an anthology series. And that’s a cool feeling to evoke.
I don’t have much to say about Rafael Albuquerque, except that he’s phenomenal, and while his style shifts between the two stories, he still remains consistent enough to feel like it’s all one artist’s vision. Great stuff, and I look forward to more.
Art: 5 - Excellent