Blood, sweets and fears
American Vampire is the Eisner Award-winning series by Scott Snyder (Batman) and Rafael Albuquerque, about a new bloodline of US bloodsuckers – as opposed to classic Euro ghouls – that possess new powers and weaknesses.
The series focuses on two characters from that species, former Wild West outlaw and original American vampire Skinner Sweet – whose origin was written by Stephen King, no less – and his first “offspring” Pearl Jones, a former Hollywood actress. In the First Cycle, the 34 issues followed them through different decades of US history, from the late 1800s to the 1950s.
Now, after a year-long hiatus, Snyder and Albuquerque have returned to the title that launched their careers and established Snyder as one of the hottest comic book writers in the industry. According to Snyder's footnote at the back of American Vampire: Second Cycle #1, the first issue of the saga’s so-called “second half” is designed as a “jumping-on point” for new readers.
If you've already heard of Snyder through of his acclaimed work on the DC New 52 Batman book, then this is the perfect place to start reading what is arguably his best work so far. American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 is stunning.
Snyder starts with a four-page prologue set in 1811, in which he sets up a mysterious and devastating new enemy that's even more fearsome than the US bloodsuckers, before jumping to 1965, where Sweet and Jones have moved on from their former “jobs” working for the vampire-hunting organisation, Vassals of the Morning Star.
Having lost her husband at the end of American Vampire #33, Jones now lives alone on her ancestral land, which doubles as a refugee home for isolated vampire kids. Sweet, on the other hand, has fallen back on old habits and is a chopper-riding outlaw. From the striking cover, which mirrors that of American Vampire #1, to the visceral images of Sweet chomping down on some gun runners, Albuquerque’s artwork is both comfortingly familiar and wonderfully fresh.
But it's Snyder and Albuquerque’s partnership that really makes this title brilliant. Though Snyder has worked with other artists on two spin-off miniseries, Survival of the Fittest with Sean Murphy and Lord of Nightmares with Dustin Nguyen, Albuquerque brings out his characters and stories the best. They suck us back into the world of American Vampire as if they never left, reacquainting fans with old friends, introducing readers to new characters, and setting up a premise that promises to be bigger than anything else.
“The honest truth is that being away from this series crushed me,” writes Snyder. “I’ve been dying to get back on American Vampire (as has Rafa) all year. So in San Diego this past summer, Rafa and I made a pact: Not only would we never step away again, but we would make this half of the series the best material we’ve done on the book, hands down.”
Well, Scott and Rafa, judging from the great work you’ve done with this first issue, I’d say you’re off to a brilliant start.
Collected editions of American Vampire are available in the graphic novel section of Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC. Visit kinokuniya.com/my, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 21648133. Single issues of American Vampire: Second Cycle can be ordered from virtual comic store Earth 638 (visit facebook.com/earth638, e-mail email@example.com or call 012-6631584,