It’s a shock to say this about “American Vampire,” and it might be a first, but this issue feels a bit thin. We follow Felicia Book and Cashel McCogan as they infiltrate Germany. We greet them on the plane in and then we leave them once they get in. The issue ends on a large moment, but everything in between is just them gaining access to the castle. It’s a good kinetic sequence, and there’s some character moments dropped in between, but otherwise this issue reads too fast.
The major selling point of this issue is going to be Sean Murphy’s art. To call it gorgeous is underselling it and to label it phenomenal is giving you an idea but not the truth. Murphy brings an A-game of precision and beauty to every panel, but it’s the flight sequence he nails completely. The concept of motion across the page, the majesty and death evident in every moment a human sails through the air in a heavy machine, and the toll it all takes on the person inside charged with crash landing the plane is brilliant. These pages are a master class on how to convey furious danger and high mountain hijinks, and they only get better under scrutiny. It’s like watching the war comics of old hit up against the possibility of a widescreen comic.
The colors from Dave Stewart bring each page a depth and consistency that any artist can only hope for their work. Stewart matches a scene of violence with a highlight, and uses snow and Nazi iconography to his advantage. The world imagined here becomes grand and evocative without ever clogging the senses. It is tempered and that suits this tale.
The best part of the issue’s writing comes from the dream sequence. Those four pages are rich with the nasty filth of a vampire’s mind. They shock with their depiction of violence, yet are tempered by their sadness of finality. These pages excite not just because they are downright sexy, but because they offer something that’s fresh and assaults the senses. These pages feel different on every level, whereas the rest of the issue seems to play pretty pat until a great reveal on the last page. Cash has a brilliant moment of filibustering as he comes off the plane, and the shared quiet scene between our two intrepid leads is sweet but it isn’t enough to hang a whole issue on.
“American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest” has an excellent core concept: two vampire hunters enter the heart of Nazi vampire territory to steal the cure for vampirism. This is a war heist movie with creatures of the night to make the most evil campaign even more black. The concept is good and was set up brilliantly in the first issue. Here we see the cogs in motion and it’s not as exciting watching the sausages get made. The stage is set for the next issue to blow the audience away, but it’s a shame they have to cool their heels a little this month.