Four issues in, and “American Vampire” continues to serve up a strong and entertaining story. Pearl’s origin story is coming to a close, and with it Scott Snyder is also bringing to a conclusion part of her old life. That’s a shame to see happen; I was hoping that we could keep exploring Pearl’s old life even as she ends up one of the undead. But it makes sense that there will need to be sacrifices and losses along the way; it’s going to give more of a cost to Pearl’s transformation. After all, we already know that as an American vampire she can survive sunlight, so there needs to be something else that she has taken away from her.
This issue is primary action from both Snyder as well as back-up story author Stephen King, but it’s to both authors’ credit that I didn’t find either story boring. Pearl being put to the test was probably the more gripping of the two stories; maybe because it’s the “present day” for the book (versus King’s story set further in the past), maybe because Pearl wasn’t exactly a killer before her transformation. Snyder’s thought this story through, launching Hattie into action at just the right moment, and from there it’s non-stop action until the end of the issue. It’s all leading up to next month’s conclusion for these initial stories, and it’s well done.
King’s origin story manages to stand apart from Snyder’s by having it be a story where most of the characters are in the dark (figuratively and literally), trying to figure out the vampire abilities and what will and won’t work. And while King’s doesn’t have quite the amount of punch during the fight scene as Snyder’s, I give him credit for a strong cliffhanger that seems low key at first but actually packs a lot of menace.
A lot of the goodwill towards “American Vampire” certainly comes from Rafael Albuquerque’s gorgeous art, which continues to kick butt and take names. As with before, Albuquerque uses a slightly crisper, more finished style for Snyder’s story, while King’s gets an ink wash and looks more like it’s been painted on the page. There are so many great moments to look at — Pearl’s attacking with her shoe, the sun behind the riders at the end of the issue, Pearl’s feeding — that it’s hard to just pick one. There’s a lot of power and rage bottled up until these figures and Albuquerque makes them ready to explode off of the page. Special kudos also go to Dave McCaig, whose colors seal the deal. Looking at the deep purple night sky, or the burning hot sun, McCaig adds extra depth and texture to each image.
Vertigo’s had some great new titles debut over the course of the last year or so, and “American Vampire” is definitely part of that crowd. I’ll miss King after next month’s conclusion of his story, but Snyder and Albuquerque will be just fine on their own. It’s easy to see why DC’s supposedly tapping Snyder for more work down the line; he’s a real find.