American Vampire #31

Quiet moments filled with meaning seem pretty hard to come by in comics -- at least the quiet moments readers can enjoy while seeing true character growth and development. The opening scene of "American Vampire" #31 features Pearl Preston checking in on her husband, Henry, as he continues the slow road to recovery following a vicious attack from a rival vampire.

That attack brings Pearl to serve alongside Skinner Sweet, a one-time foe, as both American vampires follow the direction of the Vassals of the Morning Star to vanquish a coven of vampires. Scott Snyder packs the opening pages with dialog and inner thoughts, revealing more about Pearl than most of the zero issues from DC dared to reveal about their respective star characters. That trend continues throughout the book as Pearl has a meaningful conversation with Skinner Sweet, which clearly defines the relationship between the two vampires.

While much of the issue is subdued and focused on character development, Rafael Albuquerque brings depth, despair, hope and tension in his organic linework, giving the pages an animated feel despite the lack of action. Albuquerque seizes the opportunity to flash through Pearl and Henry's relationship and in doing so shows the aging of Henry while maintaining the powerfully delicate beauty of Pearl.

Snyder and Albuquerque combine to lead Pearl down the path of introspection throughout the issue, but Pearl's assignment from the Vassals takes her, literally, back to where everything began. There is one hell of a flashback in this issue that presents a stunning way to bring the whole series -- the whole freaking series -- full circle. The final page is one of those gasping cliffhangers that sends the reader back to the credits box to check progress in the story (this is part 4 of the six-part "Blacklist" story) and almost as quickly to the internet to see when the next issue is due out (interestingly enough, on Halloween). Naturally, with Skinner Sweet as an ally, Pearl will face some dreadful foes. The challenge Snyder and Albuquerque leave her facing at the end of this issue, compounded by everything she endures throughout, makes "American Vampire" #31 one of the strongest issues of the series yet that sets the bar high for the next issue.

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