Review: American Vampire #1

Published on March 25th, 2010

I was excited when I flipped through Vertigo’s American Vampire. Rafael Albuquerque’s art was eye catching at first glance and I just couldn’t wait to get to the story. Let me just say this now, I was NOT disappointed. It turned out there were two short stories. One story was written by Scott Snyder , who also is the mastermind behind this book, and the other was by Stephen King. Each very different in location and tone but connected by a common character, the first “American Vampire” and that stunning art. Art. that was intensified by the coloring of Dave McCaig. The coloring actually changes with the story, when the action is dark and dangerous the colors really reflect that.

The first of the two stories, Big Break, follows Pearl, a young, struggling actress in the 1920’s. She’s got that tough and sassy attitude, I always equate with that time period, yet she still has stars in her eyes when it comes to acting and making it in Hollywood. Snyder writes her in a way that makes you instantly like her.

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The first two pages of this story are haunting. Bodies being dumped in the dark desert just outside of Los Angeles, while a narrative of this blissful childhood memory is going on. The excitement of an eight year old girl against women, who have chunks missing from their bodies,  are being tossed in a pit filled with older decaying bodies. The worst of it, one of these women is still somewhat alive. You jump three days into the past to a bright Hollywood set where you see the narrator of that happy story is Pearl. You follow her through her ordinary kind of life, with a great friend, a potential budding romance, and three jobs. Her world changes when she finds herself invited to what should be the party of her career. She is far too excited about her evening ahead to heed the warning of a roguish cowboy who seems to know more than he should about her host for the night. The night definitely does not end up the way she expects. I finished this first story and thought if this is what the rest of the book has in store for me, I am in for a world of amazing.

The second of the two stories, Bad Blood, follows Skinner, a newly captured outlaw in the 1880’s. Skinner is a smartass with no scruples and happens to be that roguish cowboy from the first story.  King brings the action that the first story left out. You have gunfights and train wrecks, everything a good western has. You definitely don’t love this character, in fact you kind of hope bad things happen to him and by the end of this story you definitely get your wish. He robbed banks, killed innocent women and children and allowed his gang to have their way with the hostages. Not really sad he is on his way to hang for his crimes. Of course that doesn’t actually happen, due to circumstances caused by his gang the train derails and he finds himself face to face with an old vampire who teaches him a lesson. All of this is witnessed by a young man who turns it into a fiction novel and is kind of the omniscient watcher that I believe we will see again since it shows him aged and still alive in 1925. As action packed as this second story is, it is definitely overshadowed by the first. Maybe it’s becasue I wasn’t as invested in Skinner as I was with Pearl.

Overall, I LOVED this book. When you close the book you want to read more. It was a fantastic first issue, you meet the two main character, learn about where they come from and the circumstances in which they become what they are going to be. I would recommend this book to anyone. Even if you aren’t into vampires you will enjoy this book. Solid storytelling with art that fits it perfectly. I can’t wait for the next issue and am hoping it is at least half as good as this one. A little added bonus is a short editorial by Scott Snyder. Just a little something about his motivation for writing the book and working with Stephen King. It’s a nice little window into his brain. Also, there is a short preview of an upcoming graphic novel, Area 10, which ends with a screwdriver in a man’s head…and he is still alive. So, go pick this book up if you haven’t and if you have, make your friends go buy it.

Christina Flores
Christina@comicimpact.com