Review of American Vampire, Vol. 5 by Scott Snyder

15791600Title: American Vampire, Vol. 5

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Dustin Nguyen

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

There are two things that make American Vampire unique and the best ongoing story about vampires in any form of media. First of all, the vampires in this series are not all of one species. There are several sects, each with unique powers and weaknesses, yet all draw on the common vampire mythos. Secondly, the story arcs are in the backdrop of US history. Each volume has taken on another decade, starting with the twenties in volume one, thirties in volume two, forties (WWII) in volume three, fifties in volume four…

And in volume five, we are still in the fifties. Early fifties, in fact. I had hopes when picking up this volume that we would now have a story taking place in a hippy-infested America with man striving for the moon. Instead, the setting has stalled in the fifties with two stories that frankly could have been told in any decade.

The first story arc deals with the reawakening of Dracula. He is the definitive vampire with power to control all of his subordinate vampires from miles away. Even humans can be bent by his will. Felicia Book and her song Gus are recruited by Hobbes to stop this lethal force, resulting in devastating consequences.

screen-captureThe second story arc is about Pearl, whose husband is in a comatose critical condition from a vampire attack in the previous volume. She joins the VMS to learn who was behind this attack and gets paired up with none other than Skinner Sweet. As they search to discover the secrets of the evil cult, Pearl is reunited with an old foe.

I was a little disappointed in this volume, but like I said — American Vampire is the best vampire story out there. Even in the less favorable volumes, the series shines with excellent art and storytelling. The characters  are fallible and we see many prominent characters die off like a George R.R. Martin novel.

There are essentially four comic volumes I am following right now — American Vampire, Saga, The Walking Dead, Locke and Key (soon to be completed). Even though the American Vampire time line stagnated in the fifties, the story still has momentum and I still eagerly await the next installment.

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Review of American Vampire, Vol. 4

13532244Title: American Vampire, Vol. 4

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Jordi Bernet

Rating: 3 star

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

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.

screen-captureThree 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.

Review: American Vampire, Vol. 3 by Scott Snyder

Title: American Vampire, Vol. 3

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque, Sean Murphy, Danijel Zezelj

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

The third volume of American Vampire collects three story arcs: “Strange Frontier,” “Ghost War,” and “Survival of the Fittest.”

I won’t mention much about “Strange Frontier.” It is a single-issue filler piece, taking place in 1919 Idaho. It tells of an outdoor skit, bringing Wild West vampire stories to life in a way that the show’s producers never expected. The story is bland and the artwork was really not my style.

So let’s move onto the meat of the collection. Both “Ghost War” and “Survival of the Fittest” take place during World War II. In “Ghost War,” Pearl’s human boyfriend, Henry Preston, is enlisted for a covert assignment on an island near Japan. His mission — to protect American troops from an infestation of vampires. Pearl is unaware of the true nature of this assignment, but when Skinner leaves her a note saying that Henry is lying to her, she travels to the island to save her boyfriend from none other than Skinner Sweet.

“Ghost War” had an interesting story line and we are further exposed to the diverse populations of vampires. Each region of the world has different creatures with different strengths and weaknesses. This is one of the greatest attributes of the American Vampire series. Rafael Albuquerque illustrated this story arc and the images were up to their usual standards. The secondary characters were also interesting. In particular, I liked Vicar Row, the covert team’s leader. The bearded, one-armed man plays a prominent role in the story and we are given some back story to his gritty, but heroic character.

“Survival of the Fittest” also takes place during World War II. Felicia Book and Cash McCogan are sent to Romania, seeking a supposed cure for vampirism. When they arrive, they discover that the Nazi regime has assembled an army of vampires to assist in their war efforts. Despite being imprisoned in a Romanian castle, Book and Cash continue to seek a cure and hope to foil the army’s plot at world domination.

Even though “Ghost War” was the feature story, I found “Survival of the Fittest” to be the best in the collection. Snyder continues to add greater complexity and depth to the vampire mythos and his storytelling throughout American history is a unique take on the legendary creature. I was surprised at the twist “Survival of the Fittest” took, proving that anything can happen in Snyder’s world. Snyder creates a likable character in Felicia Book and Sean Murphy’s illustrations, while different from Albuquerque’s pen, are rich with detail and emotion.

The third volume of American Vampire is my favorite thus far. It has great character depth, stories that are well-integrated into history, and increasing diversity in the legendary vampires. I hope Snyder continues to explore the series in the context of history and further develops the different relationships between the various vampires.  If you have enjoyed the series so far, you will not be disappointed with this volume.

Review: American Vampire, Vol. 2

Title: American Vampire, Vol. 2

Author: Scott Snyder

Illustrators: Rafael Albuquerque

Rating: 

Publisher: Vertigo

Review:

Sometimes it’s just not a good idea to do business with vampires. At least that’s what Chief Cash McCogan and the FBI begin to realize when two of the consortium partners of the Boulder Dam end up suffering violent deaths.

Volume 2 of the American Vampire series contains two story arcs. The first is “Devil in the Sand,” a detective story that turns into a mafia-style gun fight. Cash doesn’t like that the FBI is treading on his territory, but he deals with it in a no-holds-barred, smart-ass sort of way. After all, the city is now rife with prostitution, gambling, and lawlessness. Together, Cash and the FBI pursue the recent Boulder Dam killings to discover that vampires are involved in the venture. And of course, no bad business deal can go down without the meddling of Skinner Sweet, the superpowered American Vampire.

The second story arc is “The Way Out,” which features Pearl and her human boyfriend, Henry. Pearl was featured in the first volume as an aspiring actress who was later turned by Sweet (rather than suffering death at the hand of another). She and Henry are seeking a private life together, one that doesn’t involve Vampire politics. But her old life will not leave her alone. The European vampires are on her trail and after a decade have finally caught up with her. Pearl must let herself go and unleash her violent powers to keep her and Henry alive. In the background of the story, we also learn that Hattie Hargrove, Pearl’s former friend, has broken free from captivity and is bent on seeking revenge. Hattie begins a killing spree with an ultimate goal to find and murder Pearl.

The second volume of American Vampire is darker than the first, but it is superior in its storytelling. We really are beginning to understand the complexity of Pearl — who remains morally good at heart, but is conflicted with the tainted blood that gives her destructive urges. Hattie has turned a bit one-dimensional. Once a selfish, aspiring actress of her own, it seems the vampire blood has filled her with even greater jealousy and self-serving motivation. Skinner Sweet remains a bit of an enigma, not wanting to consort with the European vampires, but I am still uncertain what his overall mission is.

I am curious to see where the subsequent issues of American Vampire take us. Pearl still has her past coming after her like a freight train, perhaps one that will eventually catch up with her. Cash McCogan, on the other hand, fearlessly fights the threatening vampires head-on to restore Las Vegas to prosperity. Then there is Sweet — wreaking havoc in his own struggle for power against the vampires of old.