American Vampire #8
In a Series Written for Trade, there’s always the risk of the book falling a bit flat due to the fact that it’s not free to stand on its own. How will American Vampire handle an issue that’s extremely vulnerable to such a trapping?
As the year comes to a close, it is natural to look back on the year and give praise (or admonishment) to the Comic Books that have made the impact on. With several categories to choose from, one can go for days discussing which books deserve the honors of being called one of (If not the best) in that field of recognition. However, if there is one category that piques my interest more than the others, it would have to be the debate of which book is “Best New Series” of 2010, not for the number of contenders, but for the quality that each contender has. In my opinion, every legitimate contender for this prestigious honor is such a compelling book, and holds a spot in the current Top 10 of this reviewers pull list, with the latest issue of the book being reviewed (American Vampire) well in the mix of that Top 10.
As far as American Vampire goes, there are two things that stand out (amongst a myriad of positives) that make this series a refreshing take on a subject that is one of the most iconic and cliché targets of popular culture in Vampires. The first thing is the use of cultural philosophies to create a Vampire that has the potential to be a truly unique creature in and of itself, as we have already these Vampires possess different Powers and characteristics from their European Brothers and Sisters, creating an even thicker air of mystery that I think will become a trademark of this series. The second thing that sticks out is the Inter-Vampire Politics that have been established as a big theme of the series. The dynamics that are being established with American and European Vampires at war with each other, have become one of the points which have driven the plot of this series, something that could become even bigger if other types of Vampires become a factor in this tale.
When you take those two points, and mix them with the excellent dialogue, strong characters, and great overall plot, you have something that is an Instant winner, and with American Vampire #8 being released this past week, I was looking forward to sitting down and reading the latest part of this developing epic. When were assigned to review it however, I got a bit worried that this issue would fall flat due to being so dependent on serving as bridge between the beginning and the finale of this arc. Would American Vampire fall victim to this trap? Let’s find out.
As far as the current story arc goes, we are taken 10 years from the beginning of the into 1935 where not only are we in the middle of the depression, but at the near completion of the Boulder Dam (Hoover Dam), and the beginning of what Las Vegas would be known for, for decades. The focus is not so much on the day to day musings of the people, but the people who put up the capital to build the dam, the business of Vice in Las Vegas, and the would-be near futility of the law enforcement, if not for the determination of one would-be Super Cop. This issue continues to add to the story by introducing Vampire Hunters into the mix, and giving us a great example of their reach. We also learn what has happened to one of our protagonists in those 10 years, and get a very good visual into the role Vampires have played into building the Hoover Dam. What is the most impressive thing about this issue is how everything mattered in the grand scheme of things. There wasn’t a wasted moment in this book, which was propped up with strong dialogue, and impressive links to the Stephen King penned story that backed up the first arc. Issue 8 didn’t just advance the story; it added something new to the growing mythos of this story.
From Issue 1 onwards, Rafael Albuquerque has proven himself to be an artist that not only knows his craft, but was made to draw comics. In an era where comic book art has become sterilized, beyond the pretty lifeless poster art that most artists draw, Rafael is not afraid to put his unique spin on characters. From the backdrops to the environments that end up having their own life bloods, American Vampire’s world is distinguished by the mix of hope and cynicism in the art. Beyond that however, the most impressive thing about this art is the expressions that fit the speech of each line being spoken. From those expressions, we really learn about what motivates and moves these characters, and how it plays into the choices they make. It’s just too bad that the art is not “poster worthy”, so some people will miss the beauty being expressed in the art.
With all of these positives, it’s almost a shame that a book as well-crafted as this one has the flaw of not being accessible to the new reader. Unless you have read Issue 6 onwards, the new reader could get easily lost with all of the plot threads that are put into play in this book. It also doesn’t help that you need to have read the first arc to fully appreciate the plot points coming into play for this issue. What seals the deal about the flawed accessibility is the fact that with such barriers to entry, some people could miss a great series if they started this issue, and its high barriers of entry.
Despite the unfortunate accessibility curve, the creative team should be proud of this effort, as it just adds another mark to what has become a very consistent series. American Vampire is a definite contender to win that coveted “New Series of the Year” Award, and this issue just adds another point to that campaign.
The Verdict (Star System is dropped, because I plan to use it for my own reviews)
Story: 9 (Scott Snyder continues to be one of the best “new” talents writing comic books today. American Vampire proves that you don’t have to aim for the lowest common denominator in any fashion.
Art: 8.5 (Art in a Comic Book should enhance the story, and Rafael understands this to a tee. I can’t get over how expressive the faces are)
Accessibility: 5 (For the people that have been there since day 1, the payoff is immense, but for new readers, the high level of involvement needed to appreciate this issue may get in the way of your enjoyment
Final Verdict: 8.5