Go on, forget it all.
That's right, take all you preconceived notions and throw them in the trash bin. Because this book is going to change how you feel about bloodsuckers on the whole. This book numbers among the best of Vampire stories that I have ever read in the comic format and I say that without hyperbole or hesitation. I put it among the elite stories of the like of Blood: A Tale, Life Sucks, Blood & Water, 30 Days of Night, and Damn Nation. In many ways American Vampire brings more to the table than those book and holds the promise of being an ongoing series as opposed to the limited series and Original Graphic Novels like the others. The ideas that are presented in the opening two issues of American Vampire also bring to mind the kind of feeling that I had reading the first two issues of The Walking Dead, where most stories of it's ilk are limited in their scope and reach this story seems to have the kind of energy and legs to go beyond the typical vampire yarn.
American Vampire is the brainchild of a new writer to the world of comics: Scott Snyder, known mostly for his collection of short stories, Voodoo Heart, and is drawn by artist Rafael Albuquerque, artist of (among other things) Blue Beetle, Crimeland, Nomad: Girl Without a World, & Robin/Spoiler Special. But also working on the book (for at least the first 5 issues) is New York Times Best Selling Author, Stephen King. So there is certainly bound to be people who are checking out this book because of King's name on the cover and in many ways I can't fault them for doing so as King's contribution to the book is quite good and the idea of Stephen King writing for comics instead of just overseeing an adaptation one of his works is certainly pretty cool. But when you read the issue I think that you'll be surprised to find that the ideas and the characters created by Snyder are what will keep you coming back for the book month after month, and that the level of craftsmanship that he brings to the pacing and telling of the story is quite spectacular. And that's not even including how thrilled you're going to be with the artwork of Albuquerque who affects two different styles for the book, one for the story that takes place in the 1920s and another for the story that takes place in the 1880s.
Ultimately the book is the story of a newly turned vampire named Pearl who came to Hollywoodland in the 20s to try and make it as an actress in the tumultuous era of transition between the silent films and the talkies and makes her way all the way up to the status of ... extra. But she's got some good friends and she's working on a movie with one of the great stars of the day and is pretty happy about where her life is going, especially when she is invited to a party by the one and only Chase Hamilton, the star of the picture where she is currently working as an extra. Before leaving for the party from her apartment she see's the same shady stranger that she's seen a few days in a row lounging by the pool ... and he certainly doesn't belong near the womens residences. Things go strangely at the party and I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what goes on exactly (or perhaps you'll just seek out the first issue to find out).
The back-up story through the first 5 issues will tell the history of Skinner Sweet, one of the truly memorable criminals of the 1880s, and the focus of William Bunting's novel "Bad Blood". Skinner is also the mysterious stranger lounging outside Pearl's apartment and as we start to understand in the first issue was not a very nice man while he was alive and is perhaps still not a very nice man now that he is undead. The story of Skinner Sweet is told by acclaimed novelist Stephen King and for the story Albuquerque takes on a far more rendered look to his pencils and colorist Dave McCaig mutes the colors a little bit in order to give it almost a painted look.
The story of both characters are in ways similar and diametrically opposed and the way that the second issue builds off of the groundwork established by the first is certainly the kind of stuff of which dreams are made. Snyder reveals that vampirism evolves as it finds it's way into new cultures, new areas, or perhaps even new eras in order to adapt the new vampires to their surroundings as best it can. So while the vampires of Eastern Europe might not be able to cross running bodies of water or exist in the sunlight or cope with having their hearts pierced by wooden stakes, the vampires of the American West might be something wholly different. And that is one hell of an idea. To think that Vampires, or even other creatures of the night change as they find new bloodlines is something that might not be entirely new but in such different ways as Snyder brings to the table it makes for one hell of a ride. And of course he doesn't tell us all the differences between the Vampires of the past and the American Vampire right out of the gate, you'll have to read along as Pearl discovers just what kind of changes have happened to her.
This is one hell of a comic and I highly suggest that everyone go check it out. If you dig it I'd also recommend the most recent work by Snyder, Iron Man: Noir (think one part Indiana Jones, one part The Rocketeer, and one part pulp adventures).
And if you want to hear more about what Snyder has in store for you with American Vampire come back next week when I'll have an interview with him about how he got into comics and what he plans on doing with them now that he's in the door!