Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque use “American Vampire” #25 both to wrap up their “Death Race” story and also set up what’s to come in the next 25 issues — but perhaps we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Travis and Skinner Sweet face off one more time in “American Vampire” #25, but in many ways it’s not their actual fight that’s interesting, it’s the history and the revelations that come out from the fight. Don’t get me wrong, the actual tussle between Travis and Skinner is inventive and there are some great surprises lurking around the corner at several points in their death match. What works well for me is the dissection of not only their enmity but also Travis’s observations on the changes in Skinner over the years. It’s a dangerous moment, one that perhaps signposts the moments still ahead; it seems change is in the air for “American Vampire.”
For those just interested more in the lore and mythology of “American Vampire,” that’s on display as well. Travis’ attempts to destroy Skinner are fun and the different sides on the human/vampire conflict are lining up faster and faster. As for the end of Travis’s story, I feel like it’s right out of the movies of this time period that “Death Race” so beautifully apes and it’s the perfect conclusion.
“American Vampire” has been blessed with some great guest artists, but Rafael Albuquerque’s art continues to be a huge draw month after month. The entire first page is drawn not only beautifully, but quite effectively. In the opening panel, Travis’s body sails across the page into the car perfectly; we’re given an instant sensation of movement and you can actually feel the impact as his back smacks into the side of the vehicle, even without the sound effect. Dave McCaig’s colors help bring this to life too with a beautiful splash of red and orange around the impact site.
Shifting down to the block that forms panels 2-4, Skinner’s shadow is sliding towards Travis; we still haven’t seen any part of Skinner, but his presence is instantly known. Likewise, Travis is crumpled in front of the car and you immediately understand his pain. With panels 3-4, we get Skinner’s arm and hand and the shifts between those panels form a careful transition — Skinner’s claws coming out and Travis shrinking back. You get what’s Skinner’s about to do and see an animated reaction in response. It all leads up to that fifth and final panel, where Skinner is finally seen from the waist up and his strike into Travis’s chest (completely with a careful blood spray around and behind Travis) makes you wonder if this fight ended on the first page. It’s all told through Albuquerque’s art in such a fluid and graceful manner that I feel like a lot of artists could learn from him.
There’s an epilogue in “American Vampire” #25 shifting location but also tying into all the ideas we’d seen in this issue. As a result, it works both as epilogue and prologue for what’s to come; that earlier mention of change being in the air is especially true here and it’s a strong springboard for the next 25 issues and beyond. As long as Snyder and Albuquerque are around, so am I.