“American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares” #5 completely changes the complexion and crusade of the Vassals of the Morning Star. Through almost three years of stories, Scott Snyder has properly cultivated this universe so eloquently that some of those characters introduced with bit roles couldn’t help but have their stories shared elsewhere while the primary narrative continues in “American Vampire.”
Among those characters capable of filling panels with compelling tales are former VMS Agent Felicia Book, her adopted son Gus and VMS leader Linden Hobbes. Hobbes is a frequent visitor to “American Vampire,” but “Lord of Nightmares” (and this issue in particular) serves to change his status significantly. As these characters are Snyder’s creations, he definitely has imbued each with a specific tone and voice. The interactions between those characters are Snyder at his best, bringing humanity to an otherworldly situation as the Vassals attempt to halt the threat of Dracula once and for all.
The thrust of this series has been the Vassals’ quest to defeat Dracula. Adhering to the mythology surrounding him, Dracula has been nebulous and legendary throughout “American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares,” never really taking center stage — despite the fact that this book is all about him. Snyder doesn’t ever have the most famous of all vampires pontificate about his plot or even wring his hands in joyful glee as his chaotic plans unfold. Quite the opposite — Snyder gives control of the character’s appearance over to the visuals of Dustin Nguyen and John Kalisz. It is Nguyen’s interpretation of Dracula — a legend grander than mere words or images from a twenty-page comic can ever truly capture in entirety — is surprisingly understated, yet intelligently executed. When he attacks, the confrontation is decisive, brutal and terrifying.
Similar to the bittersweet ending of last year’s “American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest,” this issue closes one door and opens another, perpetuating Snyder’s wonderfully excited universe all the more. Despite their similarities and shared cast, Snyder avoids falling into a pattern with the adventures of the Vassals, providing “Lord of Nightmares” with some shocking surprises. Given that we had a miniseries starring the Vassals of the Morning Star last year and this year, I’m hoping we see more adventures of the clandestine organization next year. Until then, I am excited to see how the new direction for the VSM affects the primary narrative of “American Vampire.”