After being away for far too long, American Vampire is finally back and thankfully, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque don’t appear to have missed a beat. If you’ve read Snyder’s DC superhero work but never tried American Vampire, this is your chance to jump on, as Snyder makes sure to keep this issue perfectly accessible for new readers.
After a brief, creepy prologue showing a group of Native Americans attacked and killed by a mysterious force in 1811, the story then moves to 1965, and we catch up with Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet and see what they’ve been up to in between now and the last arc, which was set in the 1950s. After the death of her husband, Pearl has moved back home to the family farm in Kansas, pretending to be her own daughter ‘Henrietta’ and using the farm to protect waifs and strays. We see Pearl save a young black girl from a lynching, and it’s clear that we’re supposed to see the mob’s hatred for the child as a race thing, but we later find out that this girl, like all of Pearl’s other wards, is a Vampire, so that’s more likely the real reason. It’s interesting to see Snyder move forward in time like this, to an era when Civil Rights were really getting into full swing. Will we see a march for Vampire acceptance? Pearl seems to be running some kind of underground railroad here, it’s just fun to see Snyder parallel real history with his horror story.
As for Skinner Sweet, he’s now an Easy Rider style Biker criminal known as ‘Sugar Man’, riding his bike across the Texas/Mexico border and getting into trouble. We see him take down a rival crew in a truck singlehandedly, and he then returns to his hideout, which is the same one he’s been using since the Wild West days, a train car that’s been buried underground. Hey, a literal underground railroad. Skinner talks to a long-dead skeleton, and fills any new readers in on his back-story (Pearl does the same earlier in the issue), because as I said, Snyder is making an effort here to make newbies welcome. Skinner has basically tired of trying to be good and fight alongside Pearl, and has now just gone back to a life of crime.
After setting up our character’s new status quos, Snyder gets the plot started right at the end. May, Pearl’s new ward comes to her and shows the massive bite on her back that made her a Vampire. She says it doesn’t come from a documented kind of Vampire, but one from before… ‘The Gray Trader’. This is presumably the same guy we saw at the start of the issue slaughter those Native Americans, and we get confirmation of that a few pages later when he sets Skinner up. Expecting to just be stopping a shipment, Skinner comes across a school bus full of children, who are then grabbed by strange ghostly figures, as is the bus itself. We see a brief glimpse of who I assume to be the ‘Gray Trader’, and man, he looks all kinds of creepy.
This was a strong return for this book, Albuquerque’s art was excellent as ever, very atmospheric and scary. It’s just brilliant to have this book back, and I can’t wait to see what the Gray Trader’s deal is, and also to see what the other characters who have yet to return are like in the 60s. Snyder created a massive, intriguing world in the first volume, there’s so much more to explore.