I’m sticking with the horror theme again this week and will be reviewing the American Vampire series written by Scott Snyder and illustrated mostly by Rafael Albuquerque. Vampires, like zombies, have become such an omnipresent monster that it seems most people are sick of them by now. Between Anne Rice, Twilight and the million other iterations, it’s hard not to wonder if there’s anything left to say about them. While this series does not reinvent the vampire wheel, it’s a fun, bloody ride through the decades with a nightmarish collection of vampires and a compelling cast of characters.
American Vampire embraces its monsters with all the dark, gleeful violence of a Tarantino film. Worry not, horror fans, there are no sparkly vampires here. These vampires are closer to the nasty, predatory vampires of 30 Days of Night and refreshing for their creepiness. In this review, I’ll be covering the series from volume one through volume seven. The story follows two main characters, Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet, as their fates and plans are intertwined with those of various groups of vampires and vampire hunters. Each volume covers a different decade, stretching from Hollywood in the 1920’s to Kansas in the 1960’s. Pearl and Skinner are alternately working with and at odds with each other as they struggle to survive in an ever-changing world. And in the next volume, we’re even going to get vampires in space!
American Vampire’s focus is the power struggle between monsters and men and a few people that fit somewhere in between. It’s funny, extremely bloody and best of all, has a great cast of characters. Pearl’s transition from naïve farm girl turned aspiring actress to a clever, take no prisoners heroine made me fall in love with her almost immediately. It’s hard not to enjoy the hell out of a sassy, kickass heroine. The real strength here though is Skinner Sweet. Most vampire “heroes” are either brooding loners or sexy scoundrels. Skinner on the other hand is a total asshole. As a former outlaw, he has no problem with murdering anyone who gets in the way of his plans and you make a deal with him at your own risk. Like most real people, he’s a complicated character and while I would never label him as altruistic, there are times that he finds himself helping Pearl or the vampire hunters. Even so, as the reader, you can’t help but wonder what he’s really up to. That unreliability makes him a character you almost can’t take your eyes away from. As a true anti-hero, Skinner Sweet is a terrible creature and yet Scott Snyder makes you love him for it.
As a final note, this is the series that made me a fan of Rafael Albuquerque. The pairing of his beautifully rough artwork with Scott Snyder’s humorously violent writing is a match made in heaven. However, the stories suffer in the issues in which a different artist is featured. There were issues that I skimmed through rather than devouring simply because the artwork wasn’t up to the same standards.
American Vampire isn’t a reinvention of the vampire mythos. It’s a celebration that revels in the blood, gore and dark humor of vampires in a way that makes you love it if you’re anywhere near as twisted as I am. And if your tastes run closer to bloodthirsty monsters than immortals who sparkle in the sunlight, it’s well worth your time.