Sunday, June 12, 2011

American Vampire: Bloody good fun in the sun

I admit it. I picked this up because Stephen King's name is on it. You may have done the same. There is no shame in that, because King isn't the highlight here. Yes, he likely helped DC Vertigo ship a few more copies of "American Vampire" in it's single issue and compendium versions.

Being a bit slow on the uptake, I didn't get volume 1 of this book until recently. (Click on a few of the ads and maybe I'll be able to buy things when they are released.) The book came out in October 2010 and collects the first five issues, released between March and July, 2010.

While King is credited with writing the origin story of our daywalking anti-hero Skinner Sweet, "American Vampire" truly belongs to creator Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque.

Albuquerque's style is filled with reds and blues, sharp angles and hard shadows. He captures the dryness of the Old West desert with equal grace as he does the lights of 1920s Hollywood. Even the clean places feel a little dirty.

Sweet's story parallels that of Pearl Jones, a wanna-be actress turned vampire by Sweet to help him exact revenge on a set of European foppish vamps. Jones is a strong woman, willing to work three jobs to accomplish her goals and run into unknown dangers to find out what has happened to her.

Snyder and company don't spare on the bloodshed. In the forward by King and Snyder's afterward, it is clear that they believe vampires need to be brutal, hungry beasts, not sparkling, romantic teen heartthrobs. That belief is put right on the page in all the crimson glory it deserves.

"American Vampire" is recommended for mature audiences, as most DC Vertigo titles are. While the graphic art is probably the primary reason for this, it's helped by the characters being actual adults who act their age.

Threat level: ORANGE. (For an explanation of Warning Signs ratings, see the Warning System page.)

"American Vampire: Volume 1," written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, art by Rafael Albuquerque.

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