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.
Out of the Dark is a novel that is far too straightforward to be entirely successful. For those that don’t know Out of the Dark is an intelligently written alien invasion penned by military-sf master David Weber. The Hegemony, a council of alien races capable of interstellar travel, are horrified by the brutality and violence of the recently discovered human race have. In response they have allowed the Shongari, one of the most war-like and less-respected members of the Hegemony, to send a fleet to Earth for “colonization.” What ensues is a very straightforward invasion story that touches upon the classic themes that subgenre has come to be known for: underground resistances, underestimation of human capabilities by a more “advanced” species, and the unification of different people and groups in light of a common threat are just some of the familiar elements Weber employs in the majority of Out of the Dark.
Where Out of the Dark stands, particularly in its advertising, is the inclusion of vampires. Yes, you read that right. When humanity’s back is to the wall it is the vampires that rise up to aid in humanity’s defense. Which is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m totally willing to embrace the ridiculous in the name of awesome. The problem seems to be that I’m not sure Weber is similarly willing. While Out of the Dark is certainly a competent alien invasion/resistance novel for the first three-quarters of the text; it takes a sharp turn towards B-movie-ville in the final quarter. Now, that b-movie vibe is pretty fantastic but considerably less so given the dire tone and straight-faced storytelling of the majority of the novel.
I’m heading into spoiler territory, it’s hard to discuss the vampire-laden section of the novel without it, so bear with me here. Those I haven’t scared away from the novel by the above comments would still due well to check it out for themselves. This is still a classic Weber sci-fi novel to start and if the addition of craziness to that model tickles your fancy I think you’ll have a good time with Out of the Dark. Now, for everyone else, hit the jump for some more spoiler laden discussion.
I’ve already spoken about Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt Case Books but I finally got my hands on the final three audiobook editions of the series: Half the Blood of Brooklyn, Every Last Drop, and My Dead Body.Like Already Dead and No Dominion before them these volumes are narrated by Scott Brick. As I tweeted a week or so ago: “Charlie Huston is awesome and Joe Pitt is the best vampire ever. If you haven’t read any of the Joe Pitt novels do so now.” That sentiment still stands. In an publishing phase when the vampire has been nigh on “defanged” by a certain teen-centric series there has been a corresponding resurgence of harder edged and frequently atypical vampire stories as well. Let Me In by John Adjive Lindquist (both the book and film), Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s Strain series (The Strain and The Fall should be available now), and Chang-wook Park’s filmThirststand alongside Huston’s Joe Pitt novels as shining gems amidst the dross of YA-centric vampire fiction that has seemingly been flooding the market. All of the aforementioned titles are worth a look, particularly if your a fan of vampire fiction, but it is the Joe Pitt Casebooks that in my eyes stand at the top of a, comparatively small, heap.
Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires
Hells Kitchen Press, 1997
I feel kind of bad reviewing this book since it isn’t in print anymore and doesn’t seem to available for less then $32 from used vendors; I’ll do my best to keep this short. Its limited availability is unfortunate since it was a thoroughly enjoyable read chock full of awesome. During a time where many have begun to bemoan the lack of originality in the vampire tale or, perhaps more commonly, the “defanging” of the vampire Altman’s Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires is both an original take on the vampire story and simultaneously a defanging and an elevation of badassery. While it possible to read this as a spoof I think that it comes off with a whole lot more B-movie charm and an air of detached cool that elevates a notch (or three) above your average horror spoof. It is, in essence, an mash-up of martial arts action and vampiric horror that is an exciting and engrossing read.
Since my friend Val is a big fan of the vampire, and frequently a bit heated about the current state of vampire fiction, I asked her if she’d like to review del Toro and Hogan’s The Strain as a counter-point to my own review. She did so. Thankfully she managed to trim her 8000+ words down to a more managable 1500 words. So check out the review below, as always comments are welcome! -Mike
It’s very hard, in my opinion, to write a truly great and well thought-out vampire book. Sure… you can write a book that has vampire characters in it but that’s a dime a dozen nowadays. I can name at least 10 vampire series of books but not all of them are good. There are so many books out there that just merely throw the vampire into its story, without any real thought as to what they are or where they come from. I’ve never made any bones about my severe dislike for most vampire fiction books and although I might like them if I could just get through the bad sentence structure and the almost angelic romantic views of vampires, I could never really get into the authors’ lack of understanding about the creatures that stalk our dreams and take over our imaginations.
Then I was talking to a friend during my lunch break and he told me he was reading the new Guillermo Del Toro book. I had mentioned I wanted to read it and the next week was given the book. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know it was a vampire story until reading the back of the book but I decided to give it a shot and, hoping for at least an entertaining read, opened the book and began the journey. What I got was perhaps one of the best written, most UN-romanticized, old and yet slightly modernized view of the vampire.