I've written quite a bit in anticipation of the new series from Vertigo, American Vampire. Written by Scott Snider and none other than Stephen King, with art by Rafael Albuquerque,the story tells us of the birth of a brand new species of vampire. When a smarmy outlaw, Skinner Sweet, is attacked by an old enemy with a familiar curse, the first American vampire is born. Bear with me here, but it's a vampire powered by the sun. I know, I winced at it too, but Sweet becomes a more vicious breed of bloodsucker than his European ilk. The other half of the tale features Pearl Jones, a struggling young actress in 1920s Los Angeles. But when her big break brings throws her into the clutches of toothy evil, her Hollywood dream goes sour, to say the least.
The first portion, Pearl's story, is told in flashback. It begins with Pearl, clinging to life in a pile of corpses as a mysterious assailant dumps them into a ravine. Cut back to a few hours earlier. It's the golden age of Hollywood, with all of the glitz that entails. Unfortunately, there's nothing terribly interesting about Pearl or those around her. They're staples of the era. The struggling starlet, trying to make a go of it in Hollywood. I'm guessing the real meat to her character will be found when she gets her fangs. She haplessly stumbles into an ominous end, one that leaves hints laying around like bear traps, but is still exceptionally creepy. It all moves along at a brisk pace, shadowed with the mystery of a ragged stranger hanging around outside her apartment, a rogue we'll come to know as Skinner Sweet.
The second half, the first comic written by King himself, delves into Skinner Sweet as he's on his way via locomotive to his own hanging. The majority of the story is a Western with a mean streak. It's brutal, but punctuated with odd bits of humor that readers will recognize as classic King. There's gore, to be sure, but it's understated. The real horrors are when the men of the Pinkerton agency are merely discussing the atrocities Sweet and his gang have committed. Much like the first part of the story, the supernatural aspects come into play at the very end. Strangely, the true monster here is so obvious that you completely overlook him.
Artist Rafael Albuquerque is something of a newcomer. He first came to my attention with his work on the mini, the Savage Brothers, but has done some other notable work on the now-cancelled Blue Beetle series. His work here is sharp, but gritty. It fits the vibe of the story, particularly in Sweet's part of the tale. David McCaig's colors switch around in the second story, without derailing your investment in the overall issue. Much of it is muted, with punctuated bits of vibrancy when it's called for. I hope they both stick with the series for a while.
American Vampire - Trailer
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The thread that ties the two stories together hints at a decades long backstory with more connections than just the bloodsucking cowboy. It sports dialog that's funny, menacing, and engaging. The two part structure of the issue does lessen the momentum a bit, but it's not too much of a hindrance. If you're looking for a good horror comic (and God knows there are more good than bad), this is definitely one to grab.