Friday, 22 April 2011

Review American Vampire

Written by – Scott Snyder and Stephen King

Art by – Rafael Albuquerque

Published by – Vertigo

A new vampire for a new century

Cunning, ruthless and rattlesnake mean, Skinner Sweet has a reputation for cussedness as long as he is ornery. As the first vampire conceived on American soil, however he’s not your usual creature of the night. Stronger, fiercer and powered by the sun, Sweet is the first of a new breed of bloodsucker: the American Vampire.

Remember back in the good old days when vampires weren’t romantic fops lusted after by hormone enraged teenage girls, when vampires were evil, remorseless blood suckers? Cool – so does Scott Snyder the brains behind American Vampire and in Skinner Sweet the titular American Vampire he has created a swaggering rootin tootin cowboy vampire who is as every bit as mean as you hoped and wished he would be.

American Vampire volume 1 collects together the first five issues of Snyder’s creator owned series published by Vertigo. He is joined on writing duties by Stephen King (yes that Stephen King) and the artwork is provided by Rafael Albuquerque.

The story narrative in American Vampire is split into two main arc’s, one arc written by Snyder takes place in 1920’s Hollywood and the second arc written by Stephen King takes place in the wild west of America in the 1800’s.

Skinner is the original notorious bad ass outlaw, however when we pick up with Skinner he has been tracked down and captured by the Pinkerton Agency. Due to a fortunate series of events he is freed by members of his gang but in the ensuing gunfight Skinner is attacked and then accidently infected with the blood of an old world Vampire. But Skinner is different from normal vampires, he is the first vampire to be sired on American soil, he is faster, more ferocious and perhaps most importantly fuelled by the sun – the world ain’t never seen anything like Skinner Sweet before…..

The second arc by Snyder follows the story of would be actress Pearl Jones and her attempt to make it big in Hollywood in the mid 1920’s. Pearl is the everyman (woman) of the story and is our in to Skinner Sweets world. Invited to a party in the Hollywood hills Pearl is savagely attacked by a group of old world vampires and then dumped and left dead in the desert. When Pearl is finally found she is saved by the mysterious Skinner who not only turns her into an American Vampire but also turns her loose as an instrument for his revenge against the old world vampires.

Even though this book has two writers working on two separate strands of the story, the book flows and reads incredibly well. Out of the two stories King seems to have the most fun with the old west Skinner, he throws most of the wild west tropes into the mix bank robberies, train wrecks and good old fashioned shootouts. Also in Pearl Jones Snyder has created a well crafted modern heroine smart, intelligent and hell bent on revenge. Ms Jones is a gal not to be messed with.

The art by Rafael Albuquerque really is amazing and the colouring by Dave McCaig sets everything off beautifully. There are a couple of panels that deserve a mention for their sheer brilliance, a half dead Pearl staggering out of the desert is lit perfectly with a bright yellow sky and then Skinner Sweet bursting out of his water logged coffin, a truly defining moment in the book. However the ones that really struck me are a series of four panels in the first of Pearls stories, she is being used to take a light reading on the film set with the films star Chase Hamilton. The individual panels are just blacked out head shots but are stunningly effective and just scream out old Hollywood – perfect.

Final thoughts

So congratulations to Scott Snyder and co. with American Vampire they seem to pull off the impossible and have breathed new life into vampire mythology. They have single handidly taken the romantic vampire out of the twilight and dumped them firmly into the day light and then ripped their bloody throat out for good measure. Good on ‘em I say. My only problem is now I have to wait until August for Volume 2 to be published.

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