01/01/2012. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
pub: Titan Books. 160 page graphic novel. Price: GBP18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85768-512-4).
check out website:www.titanbooks.com
Volume two of Vertigo’s new flagship comic ‘American Vampire’, continues where the excellent first volume left off, although now without the immeasurable talents of Stephen King, who co-wrote the first volume with Scott Snyder, to his usual impeccable standards. In volume two, we return to the anti-hero vampire Skinner Sweet, as he continues to come into conflict with the old-world vampires of Europe that have come over to the New World to control the culture and society of the fledgling USA.
The first volume straddled two timelines. The first in early 1920s Hollywood, where Skinner Sweet turned a wannabe film star, Felicia Book, and the pair of them faced off against a cabal of ancient vampires who ran the film industry. The second, written by King, detailed some of Sweet’s background back in the Wild West.
As vampires live forever, ‘American Vampire’ indulges in that, taking us through the early days of America’s history, as well as taking us across the country. In volume 2, we start during the great depression in Las Vegas. Where better for a morally ambiguous creature like Skinner Sweet? When a series of powerful businessmen begin to show up dead with all the blood drained out of them, local police chief Cash McCogan suspects Sweet, who runs a brothel downtown and who should turn up to support the police investigation but Pearl Jones, now working as an assistant to the FBI.
The Hoover Dam is in the process of being built nearby and the powerful forces behind it are not necessarily all human. The first four issues collected in this volume detail the struggle between the police chief and the vampires infesting his town, including Skinner Sweet. Pearl and her human boyfriend, Henry, are the real heroes of this piece, as Skinner regresses to his baser instincts.
The last two issues in the book change tack slightly, as we return to Pearl’s roommate in the first volume, Hattie. She, too, was taken by a vampire in 1920s Hollywood, but unlike Pearl, her redemption was not forthcoming. Trapped by a sadistic old vampire and tortured, when she eventually breaks loose, Hattie has little good left in her and she’s coming to find Pearl, who she blames for all her troubles.
The comic series loses a little without Stephen King co-writing, but who wouldn’t suffer a little, losing a man of his talents. Scott Snyder is still a talented writer and the backdrop of great depression-era America makes for a great setting for the twisted creatures he has created. The technique of going forward in time each volume is perfect to keep things interesting and Pearl and Henry are worthy heroes, as is Chief McCogan. The storylines are well done, although I did struggle to understand Skinner Sweet’s change of character in this volume, as he lost the anti-hero edge he had in the first book and was less interesting as a result.
The artwork is great, with powerful use of colour and shadow, creating deep, brooding panels that complement the writing nicely. Rafael Alberquerque draws the first four issues, whilst Mateus Santolouco takes over for the last two. Whilst sometimes when artists change mid-series there can be a huge difference in art styles, in this one the mood and tone stays the same, which gives a nice cohesiveness to the book. Things are set-up nicely for a compelling series for many volumes to come.
Tomas L. Martin
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA