American Vampire Volume 1
Scott Snyder, Stephen King (writers)
Rafel Albuquerque, Dave McCaig (art/color)
Scott Snyder has become something of a household name in the comics world now that he’s taken the reins of one of DC Comics’ Trinity with the New 52 reboot of Batman. Before Batman though Snyder worked on a creation of his own: American Vampire. Published under DC’s Vertigo line American Vampire received the attention of veteran horror legend Stephen King who agreed to pen the origin story (a backup feature with each new issue) for the comic’s lead character: Skinner Sweet.
American Vampire is a rather unique take on the vampire legend. Skinner is a bit different from the European vampires that made him. Not only can he walk in the day, but is powered by the sun and is more than willing to prey on the same creatures that created him. Of course the old school, well-mannered European vampires don’t have any patience for this young upstart lesser breed and, in the origin story penned by King, do their damnedest to get rid of this thorn in their side. As readers learn right off the bat they are less than successful and the bulk of the story takes place in 1920s Hollywood as Skinner guides another like himself.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the storytelling in American Vampire is how little the story actually involves Skinner. In the first volume the story focuses on the shattering of a young girl’s Hollywood dream and her bloody trail of vengeance. In this part of the story Skinner plays an ancillary role; he is a shadowy guiding force. The focus on actress Pearl’s quest to take revenge on the people that tried to kill her remains the first volume’s main story. In my opinion, Snyder’s work stands shoulder to shoulder with King’s origin story. Both aspects of the story place equal emphasis on each part of the title. King’s story is a classic American western complete with the prejudice of the Old World vampires on the upstart Skinner while Snyder’s story of Hollywood heartache is one that is intimately part of the American lexicon.
No attempt is made to explore the nature of vampires. While I will not rule out something like that in future volumes I found the lack of discussion regarding the origins of the vampire wholly welcome. Both King and Snyder focus solely on their characters and plot allowing the general reader’s knowledge of vampire mythology guide expectation. Tidbits regarding the differences between Skinner and Pearl when compared to the traditional vampires are eked out slowly over time and only when necessary to the current action currently taking place.
The art by Rafel Albuquerque is perfectly suited to the story. Albuquergue is as equally deft at conveying emotion through his art as he is at conveying action. However I find that his subtle work with facial expression add an unexpected nuance to the characters that really lends the story an emotional grounding that felt somewhat unexpected. All due credit should also be given to colorest Dave McCaig whose blend of darker shades accented by brighter colors really makes the art pop. Not being a student of art I can’t quite explain the subtle differences in the art approach to the different sections of the story but is there none-the-less. The Old West parts of the story are a slightly darker with heavier shading that lends it a distinct look while somehow still maintaining a consistent feel. In summary this is a book where the art stands on equal ground to the writing.
This is precisely the type of title absolutely screaming for an HBO series (True Blood meets Deadwood). As I said in my comments regarding the Batman relaunch Snyder is a man to keep your eye on. I’ll definitely be looking to grab a copy of American Vampire Volume 2 as soon as I can. If you’re a fan of well-written, entertaining horror comics you shouldn’t hesitate to give American Vampire a shot.