Writers: Scott Snyder, Stephen King
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Colours: Dave McCaig
It’s practically impossible to review American Vampire without first mentioning that Vertigo’s latest marks the comic book debut of Stephen King, who’ll be providing a 5-part secondary tale in this ongoing “vampires through the ages” series from Scott Snyder. And a solid debut it is too, not just from King but particularly Snyder, whose first creator-owned title opens up a world of infinite possibilities in its bumper sized first issue.
American Vampire begins with Snyder’s half, the tragic tale of aspiring actress Pearl Jones in 1920s Los Angeles, as we discover how she came to end up bloodied and naked in a pit of corpses. In King’s story, ‘Bad Blood,’ failed novelist Will Bunting recounts the real events that inspired his single literary effort; the execution of outlaw Skinner Sweet in Colorado, 1880.
Skinner is the element that ties these two plots together, seemingly a vampire born in daylight and immune to its devastating effects. Both Snyder and King stay true to vampiric convention, but it’s their execution that makes this series stand out. These aren’t the effeminate, naval gazing bloodsuckers that have followed in Twilight’s wake, but the shapeshifting bogeymen of yore, and both sections are excruciatingly suspenseful reads.
But in many ways it’s Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig that are the stars of this siamese show, rendering both King and Snyder’s tales with distinctly separate approaches. In the Los Angeles-set segment Albuquerque’s lines are clean and McCaig’s palette bold, while in the 1880’s portion the duo’s art is as rough and grimy as the era they portray. Keeping the same artists for each section has certainly paid off, bestowing the book a cohesion that similar anthology titles lack.
The majority of monthly comic titles are now written with trade paperbacks in mind, and often suffer when read in instalments. Not so with American Vampire. Both of the two tales in this first issue of Snyder’s potential epic feel satisfyingly complete, much like the E.C. horror anthologies of yesteryear but running within an encompassing narrative. Definitely a series to get excited about.