I feel like I should offer up a toast to Vertigo, because considering the past twelve months have offered up titles like “The Unwritten,” “Daytripper,” and “American Vampire,” I’d say they’re creating some excellent titles for the ages.
Take, for instance, the second issue of “American Vampire.” If all we got was the first story by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, I think everyone would have been pleased. 1925 Hollywood is a perfect place for a vampire story, not only because the setting in and of itself is a fascinating one, but because we also get the added metaphor of the Hollywood studios being bloodsuckers in their own right. This issue pushes us right into the aftermath of the fatal party that Pearl attended, beset upon by vampires and then dumped in the desert to die. As Pearl stumbles out of the desert, it’s a creepy, ominous moment and it’s only the beginning of what’s to come.
Pearl’s transformation this issue is dreamlike and creepy, and full of hints from Skinner as to just what this evolution of vampire has become. His comparison of the European vampires versus American ones suddenly brings the title of the comic into strong focus, even as Pearl gets her revenge on Chase Hamilton as she gives in to her new nature. Rafael Albuquerque’s art snaps strongly into focus here, and he’s got a sharp control on his figures. As Pearl and Skinner’s reflections warp and weave in the mirror, or when we see Pearl begin her transformation, it serves in sharp contrast to the normal looks of the characters, stretching far away from their normal, every-day looks.
Albuquerque alters his style slightly for Stephen King’s story, though, which also turns out to be a winner. King keeps apace with Snyder, showing us Skinner’s own transformation into vampire as a contrast to Pearl. Skinner journey is creepy and ominous, with the images of flooded towns and curious rats to tide Skinner over as he lies trapped in his coffin. King has come up with just the right scenes for Albuquerque to draw; the underwater expedition in particular is gorgeous, with Dave McCaig’s colors taking on a painted look as the light filters down through the blue-green water. After slightly over-narrating the first issue, King’s script here is just right, giving us just the right amount of detail while letting Albuquerque tell the rest of the story. He’s got a good sense of pacing, too, with Skinner’s eruption from his coffin perfectly timed with a huge splash page from Albuquerque.
I’m enthralled with “American Vampire” and I’m pleased to see that the first issue’s strong debut wasn’t just a fluke. “American Vampire” might be getting some initial attention because of King’s involvement in the first five issues of the series, but I think if it had just been Snyder and Albuquerque it would be picking up strong word of mouth praise based on their contributions. (That said, I’d love to see King come back with some more prequel back-up stories down the line.) Definitely check out “American Vampire” if you haven’t already. This is a fantastic new series that demands your attention