American Vampire #1–5 by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King
In a time when libraries in the UK face a difficult future, I just want to reiterate how much I love my local library. The sheer number of graphic novels and collections of comic books I’ve read via my library is fantastic, and that’s only a small portion of what libraries provide. So it was just another in a line of pleasant surprises when this hardback collection appeared on the shelves. I’m a lucky chap.
This is the creator-owned concept from Snyder, a newcomer to the world of comics (and with only a collection of short stories to his name), but he’s made a splash sufficient to attract Stephen King to write the back-up feature. The high concept here is that Skinner Sweet is a new kind of vampire, the first created on American soil, and it means that he is immune to sunlight; he is also stronger and more deadly than his European counterparts (although he is still vulnerable to certain things). Snyder tells the story of a struggling young actress in Los Angeles in the 1920s and how she becomes involved with Skinner Sweet, while King tells the ‘origin’ story of Sweet in 1880 (under the direction of Snyder’s notes). Sweet is an unpleasant character, and King seems have fun writing a thoroughly vicious cowboy story, with some nasty European vampires thrown in. Snyder makes an odd choice of telling a story that is not about the main character, but it is an intriguing tale in its own right, taking in early Hollywood and European vampires trying to run production. It’s good stuff; Snyder has a good ability with character and dialogue, and he’s created an interesting new version of an old idea, but bringing back the viciousness to vampires.
The other excellent half to this collection is the art from Albuquerque; I thought his art was good before on the likes of Blue Beetle, but he’s got even better since then. His lines are sharp and slick, his style oozes atmosphere and moodiness, his Skinner Sweet in full vampire mode is horrific, his action is exciting. He even uses slightly different styles for the different time frames: the cowboy era is deliberately rougher and looser, compared with the slicker style of the 1920s. It adds up to a really good book; I think Snyder is on to something here, and I’ll be looking out for the next collection to find out more about Skinner Sweet.