"American Vampire: Second Cycle" #7 picks up right where the previous issue left off and does so in a manner that is akin to meeting someone in a new situation: things are happening and you can figure out what's what and who's who along the way. Of course, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are counting on readers to be familiar with the cast already, but the duo -- alongside letterer Steve Wands and colorist Dave McCaig -- gives everyone enough information to move along in stride.
If you've missed an issue or need a refresher, not to worry: Snyder finds organic means throughout the course of the tale to get readers acclimated to 1965, where Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet have fallen in league with the Vassals of the Morning Star. Not only does Snyder give readers the lowdown on the characters, but he sets the context of the adventure. This is America in the mid-1960s, with the Civil Rights Movement, space race and Cold War in full swing. America has never experienced a more paranoid time, and the horror and mystery inherent in the mythos of "American Vampire" play perfectly to the era.
All of that falls under the shadow of the Gray Trader as the Vassals of the Morning Star launch into the space race in an attempt to stop him from instigating a nuclear war. That leads to some intriguing reveals and some new characters and concepts as Snyder and Albuquerque continue to build this world with depth and breadth. In "American Vampire: Second Cycle" #7, they introduce readers to Brun, a tunneler with a rocky exterior, the Sixth Breed ("the Beast's parasites") who serve as mindless menaces with snappy dialogue and a Homo Abominus named Joel, or -- as Sweet dubs him in a more colloquial fashion -- a "f---kin' mummy."
The delineation between word and image blurs considerably as Snyder and Albuquerque are perfectly matched and seem to be of one mind, for the imagery in the issue has an ethereal, dreamlike quality befitting a vampire's tale. With McCaig layering in bold, rich colors overtop Albuquerque's work, this comic is filled with dynamic images, including a hellish final page primed to become the stuff of nightmares. Throughout the issue, Albuquerque makes the smart choice to drag in shadows from the edge, giving the artwork a passionate expression, as though Albuquerque crafts this book panel-by-panel on oversized sheets clipped to an easel. Each image tells its own story, which is augmented by McCaig's colors and masterfully flows through Albuquerque's layouts. Wands' letters continue to enhance the diversity of this cast, particularly as the Sixth Breed exhibit a new sound in the word balloons this issue.
Anytime a comic book can leave you with a "Holy S---!" cliffhanger, it's a decent read; anytime "American Vampire" can do it, well, it's just another issue of "American Vampire," where anything can (and quite often does) happen as Snyder, Albuquerque, McCaig and Wands continue to deliver topnotch horror-filled adventures with each issue. After years of the narrative dance Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones have performed around the legend of "American Vampire," Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque continue to find new ways to elevate both characters in their respective roles. They make "American Vampire: Second Cycle" #7 a surprisingly approachable issue, despite being seven issues into this volume and scores of issues into the series. The creative team continues to deliver consistently high quality work, giving readers plenty of surprises and excitement along the way.