“American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1 brings thirty pages of Scott Snyder-written and Rafael Albuquerque-drawn goodness back to the new comics racks. The creative team is rounded out with Dave McCaig on colors and Steve Wands on letters in a collaboration that is fresh, yet comfortable at the same time, despite the haunting nature of the story. Like the characters and creatures in this story, the creative team has adapted — and survived.
Fans of the first run of “American Vampire” eager for this series to return are rewarded with this issue. There were little snacks between “American Vampire” #34 and “Second Cycle” #1, but the return of the monthly series with Snyder and Albuquerque at the helm is what fans have really been waiting for. The co-creators bring Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet back, but not before they seed more mystery into the history of the American divergence of bloodsucker. In four pages, the opening scene goes from deliberately constructed to diabolical — characters are put through the ringer, but all the reader knows is that there is a gigantic, frightening mystery materializing in the old West, certain to impact the latter story.
From there, Snyder jumps forward, bringing readers up to 1965. Snyder uses no more than three pages — one of them a dynamic splash page from Albuquerque with burning color work from McCaig — to establish Pearl Jones’ place in this legend once more, as seasoned readers know her and new readers meet her. She’s seconds away from unleashing buckshot on trespassers and setting them on their way in her own manner. In addition to making Pearl a daring, bold character, Snyder cracks her shell a bit later in “American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1, letting readers in on the secret that Pearl Jones is a very compassionate character, as shown in her interaction with May, the newly introduced refugee Pearl takes in. Before the issue is over, the writer has provided a succinct introduction to a tight cast of characters for new readers, which includes American badass Skinner Sweet (who, naturally, rides a chopper and makes his way by raising hell for other people). Sweet looks a little more bulky and a little worse for wear given the progression of time.
McCaig’s colors from the start of this new installment are different. The opening scene, set in an unseasonal, swirling snowstorm in Arizona is filled with colors that are just off, like the reflections from a sky filled with gathering storm clouds in the middle of a frigid winter. Albuquerque and McCaig blend together wonderfully to create a new species of vicious, mysterious evil that eludes definition, swirling through the skies. Albuquerque covers the range with his art handling everything Snyder throws his way, from grenades and choppers to underground bunkers and a myriad of vampire breeds. He doesn’t jam details in just for the sake of details, but to establish scenes and reins the detail back to emphasize character in a truly masterful manner. May uttering the words, “The Gray Trader” in murky wash and heavy shadow is every bit as striking as any other panel in this issue. With Wands’ lettering icing things over (check out May’s nighttime visit with Pearl) “American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1 is one of the best-looking issues of the franchise.
While Snyder and Albuquerque don’t tell the readers everything, they certainly transfuse enough of the awesomeness from the “American Vampire” series into “American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1 to make it a must-read. It’s rare that a comic book this thoroughly developed and enjoyable comes around, offering readers a ground-level chance to enter a new world. It’s even more rare when it happens for a second time. If you missed out on the first run of “American Vampire,” start with this issue. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet: wait no longer. “American Vampire: Second Cycle” #1 is just beginning and it’s one hell of a start.