Author: Scott Snyder
Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Bernet
The American Vampire comics are probably the best ongoing exploration of the Vampire mythos in any form of media. The premise is that there are many species of vampires spread across the earth, each with different abilities and Achilles’ heels. The American-born species, for example, have long and viscous claws and are immune to sunlight. Each novelization of the comic book series takes place in a subsequent decade — the fourth installment features a story taking place in the 1950’s.
Three story arcs are collected in this novel. The first story arc, “Beast in the Cave,” features Skinner Sweet prior to becoming a vampire, fighting in the Indian Wars with Jim Book. The natives solicit the help of an ancient vampire trapped in a cave, which has deadly consequences.
The second and feature story arc is “Death Race,” taking place in the 1950’s. We are introduced to Travis Kidd, a teenage vampire killer. Travis ably fits the persona of a rebellious teenager from the era, with leather jacked, shades, and a cocky attitude to boot. Whether using gold, silver, or wooden fangs that he developed, the fearless hunter works on his own to rid the world of vampires.
The third story arc, “The Nocturnes,” features Calvin Poole, an African American agent working for the secret Vassal organization. After traveling south as part of an investigation, he predictably encounters some racist thugs who have no idea what they are in for.
To be honest, the fourth American Vampire volume was a bit of a disappointment. Largely omitted from the stories was Pearl, who only makes a brief appearance in a pretty major shift to the plot. The first story arc, while featuring some decent artwork from Jordi Bernet, really didn’t bring anything new to any of the characters. The feature story, “Death Race,” was my favorite and I am hoping Travis Kidd makes some future appearances. His battle with Skinner Sweet brought two capable foes against one another in a great car scene. The biggest fault in this story arc was in the format — the very jarring time shifts made a simple story difficult to follow at times.
The next collection should take place in the 1960’s, which I hold high hopes for as Skinner Sweet likely will be dealing with some hippies. I also hope Pearl returns to the pages with a more prominent role. In all likelihood this will happen given what took place in this volume.