American Vampire Volume 1 (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, drawn by Rafael Albuquerque
Collects American Vampire #1-5
Scott Snyder is a writer whose work I’m really enjoying. I haven’t even gotten into his Batman stuff, which I hear great things about, but I was a huge fan of his Image miniseries Severed. While reading this first volume of American Vampire, I realized that he does an amazing job writing fiction in a historical setting that not only captures what it was like living in that time, but also makes the people living in those settings not seem old and dusty. It’s not like he has people in the 20s saying, “Sup homes,” but he makes these characters very easy to relate to by making them real and not imitations of the kinds of people we were told existed in television and movies.
American Vampire exemplifies this by exploring the past century by way of blood suckers. The series shines the spotlight on a pair of characters — at least in this first volume — Skinner Sweet and Pearl and this is where the dual writers come in. You never really know with these kinds of things, but I questioned Stephen King’s involvement in this book. I don’t want to cast aspersions on him specifically, but I’ve heard lots of behind the scenes talk when it comes to celebrity guest writers not really participating and just putting their name on to help boost sales. I don’t feel like that’s the case here. King’s got a lot of cred in my book and he said in the foreword that he asked Snyder to write Skinner Sweet’s origin story, so I believe him. Plus, I just read that he was only involved in the first arc, so it’s not like they kept his name on the book for sales reasons. As such, the first half of the issue features Pearl in the mid-20s and is written by Snyder, then King tackles Sweet’s origins in the late 1800s in the second half. I like this set up, but do admit that I would have had a really hard time remembering all the details from month to month and am very glad to have read this book in trade form.
Anyway, Pearl’s story starts off like an E True Hollywood Story about an actress struggling to make it in the changing movie business (talkies are new at this point). She goes to a party only to discover that the big wigs are actually vampires. They intend to just feed on her, but Skinner turns her. He briefly explains that they’re a different kind of vampire from those old farts and then takes off. Fueled by rage and a thirst for vengeance (and blood of course), Pearl takes on the old vamps with a little help from a friend.
I’ve got to say, I fell in love with the character of Pearl. I love strong women and she’s about as tough a one as you’ll find without being too caustic or bitter. She doesn’t sulk about what happened to her, she gets pissed and goes off to take care of it. Skinner’s also an interesting character, one I assume we’ll learn more about as the series rolls on. I don’t really know where the book goes from here, but considering the two main characters are somewhat immortal vampires, I guess we’ll see them together again if for no other reason than to learn some of the rules for the new, American vampires.
I also have to talk about Rafael Albuquerque’s art. Holy crap is he great on this book. I’d seen him draw Blue Beetle and wondered if this book would share that one’s cartoony nature, but that’s not really the case. He seems to change his style a bit for the subject matter, but it’s still very much him. It’s not easy drawing a vulnerable woman one panel and then a giant-mouthed vampire the next and making them both look good AND real, but he nails it. He also keeps the “present day” section of the book cleaner and the flashbacks more shadowy, which is a cool technique I didn’t even notice at first, but is really evident when you go back and flip through the trade.
So, as you can tell, I’m pretty sold on American Vampire and want to get the rest of the trades. I just did some looking around and it looks like Snyder and company ended the book with the 30th issue. It’s funny, that seems to be the new number that Vertigo series’ aim for when it used to be 80. Anyway, I’ll be keeping this book and hopefully adding the other three to it in the near future.