It's sad to sense that "American Vampire: Second Cycle" is approaching its inevitable conclusion; Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's title has become one of the new mainstays of the Vertigo Comics line. Then again, with the series continuing to move forward in time and giving us vampires in space, there's always a bright side to every storm cloud.
Snyder's story certainly feels like it's setting up for a climactic moment these days. With Pearl and Felicia working together and Skinner Sweet quite possibly doomed with an increasingly-powerful infection, there's a note of "this is how it ends" hanging over the title. On the bright side, though, it also continues to give us the feeling that anything can happen. In many ways, "American Vampire: Second Cycle" #9 feels like it's just setting up what's still to come in the remaining two parts of the "Dark Moon" storyline. So, while this chapter will almost certainly pay off with an explosive finale, it's not until we're near the end of the issue that the comic goes from entertaining to engrossing.
That's not a bad thing, mind you; after all, it's good to catch one's breath, and Snyder takes advantage of this chapter to increase the level of doom that's hanging over our characters. Situations are slowly going from bad to worse, with a perfect setup for the cliffhanger to lead into next issue's explosive confrontation. The best part of the issue, though, is Pearl and Felicia working together. These two characters have both been a lot of fun since their introductions, and their rapport is strong enough that a new reader might think that they've always been a duo within the pages of the series. They're a good team, and Snyder's clearly been itching for these moments for some time now.
Albuquerque and Dave McCaig have always worked well together and this issue is no exception to that rule. Those emotional moments are the core of the art; the look on Felicia's face when Brun is destroyed is brutal, to the point that we don't need to see it actually happen, because the anguish from Felicia more than tells the story. The best part of the art this month has got to be the Nevada dunes of sand and ash, which feel tailor-made for this creative team. Albuquerque's ink washes are perfect to create the drifting landscape's terrain, and McCaig's choices of grays and steel blues give a wonderful bleakness to the windblown area. It's a startling, dangerous look and the duo nail it perfectly.
Add in a little touch of humor throughout "American Vampire: Second Cycle" #9 (the "Goodbye, Felicia" moment made me laugh out loud) and this is a solid, enjoyable comic. I feel like it's trying to whet my appetite but, fortunately, it's for the next issue and not human blood. I'll be sad to see "American Vampire: Second Cycle" eventually come to a close but, with the glimpses of modern-day Las Vegas at the start of this issue, it's coming with a bang, both figuratively and literally. Here's to the ride towards the conclusion.