I’d never heard of this comic book series before, but when I ran across a hardback collection of the first story arc from it, I thought it looked interesting. Also, it appeared to be co-written by Stephen King. Now, I’m not a huge Stephen King fan (I’m sure that breaks his heart), but I have read and enjoyed quite a bit of his work. I figured he helped plot this book, and I liked that other vampire yarn of his, SALEM’S LOT, so why not give it a try?
Well, as it turns out, King didn’t co-plot this series. Scott Snyder actually created it and plotted it, and King wrote half the stories in the book. Each issue has two separate stories in it, one set in Los Angeles in 1925 (written by Snyder), and a connected story running from the 1880s up to 1925 (written by King). Taken together they form an epic yarn about the creation of a new kind of vampire, an American vampire as opposed to the classic European kind, who can walk in the daylight and is even stronger, faster, and more vicious than the originals. The first American vampire is outlaw Skinner Sweet, who’s a fascinating, utterly evil character. The shadow of that evil stretches over a stalwart Pinkerton agent in the Old West, James Book, all the way to Hollywood and a young actress named Pearl Jones years later.
This is pretty good stuff. I don’t read all that much horror, and if this were a movie the buckets of blood necessary to film it would probably keep me from watching it. But it works very well as a graphic novel, and it’s always nice to see vampires used as the bad guys, rather than as brooding romantic heroes, a variation that I confess I’ve never really understood. And most of the vampires in AMERICAN VAMPIRE are really bad guys indeed.
The scripts by Snyder and King are very good, perking right along with action and good dialogue and the occasional plot twist. I’m less fond of the artwork by Rafael Albuquerque, which is a little too grotesque and stylized and hard to follow in places for my old guy eyes. Some of the individual panels, though, are certainly striking. A few of the period details don’t quite ring true, and somebody should have caught the fact that the title “Ms.” didn’t exist in the 1920s. These little flaws are annoying but don’t keep the book from being entertaining.
So if you’re a Stephen King fan or just a horror/vampire fan in general, AMERICAN VAMPIRE is certainly worth reading. From the way the story ends, I assume there’ll be more collections in the future, and I’ll probably read them.
THE PULP CALENDAR: December 3
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