Moving on from the dual-story issues that comprised the initial arc of “American Vampire,” the title shifts locations, the writer shifts characters, and the artist shifts his style. Set in Nevada in 1935, as The Great Depression has settled onto the United States, this issue swings over to Las Vegas. Set during the time that the Hoover Dam was being built, Snyder brings in some new characters and returns a few others.
The protagonist of this arc is Cashel McCogan, newly minted chief of police in Vegas, set to right wrongs and driven to pursue justice following the murder of his father, who served as police chief before Cash. Cash is the type of cop who doesn’t observe days off and wants nothing more than for his town to be taken care of. Snyder uses the growth of Vegas as seen through the eyes of Cash as a nice metaphor for the evolution of the American vampires within this title.
Through the course of this issue, Snyder introduces Cash (and the reader) to Jack Straw, an FBI agent, who has come to Vegas with Felicia Book, Straw’s assistant, to help curb the rising crime rates. The first case they all work on together happens to feature a high-falooting business man drained of his bodily fluids.
In a conversation between Cash and another resident of Vegas, Snyder has the other fella refer to the era as "The Depression – not a, the." This struck me as an interestingly poignant bit of dialog, appropriate to the time, certainly, but also insightful to today’s economic situation. It’s a nice reminder that no matter how bad we think it is now, it could always be worse.
The final page, with the appearance of Jim Smoke, throws a curve at the reader that I, personally, didn’t see coming. It’s a welcome curveball that sets things in motion for more excitement and surprises to come and it is another feather in Snyder’s cap for what is quickly becoming one of my favorite comics on the stands today.
In previous issues, Albuquerque tinkered with his style a bit, changing up the visuals between Skinner Sweet’s origin and Pearl’s journey of discovery. Here, Albuquerque challenges himself again. Albuquerque's style in this issue, with the new setting and storyline, is much more Expressionistic, more sketchy than previous work that I’ve come to mentally associate with Albuquerque, whether it is his previous work on this title or his work elsewhere. Albuquerque has shown no shortage of creative notions and capable execution of those notions and this issue is a shining example of his versatility and fluidity. His storytelling is still very strong, his composition is eye-catching, and his characters are distinct and recognizable. Albuquerque gets to shake things up a bit, but in doing so impresses me further. If this guy isn’t the next great comic book artist, then I don’t know who is. Not only is every issue a visual treat, but Albuquerque tries something new every issue, and every single issue (granted it’s only a half dozen to this point) has been delivered on time.
Admittedly, I was a little put off that the $3.99 sticker has stuck, but once I closed the back cover of this issue, I didn’t mind the cost at all. If you’re going to charge me an extra buck for a comic, this is the type of story I want that comic to contain.
There might be some concern about this title among retailers and readers, with Stephen King no longer co-writing, but I can assure you, this book certainly does not suffer from a lack of King. Snyder has complete command of these characters, a passion for the tales told within, and a plan for this new mythology that we have only begun to glimpse. Snyder recently spoke to CBR about this new arc in a conversation that you can read here. I’m enthused about what has happened in this book to date and I look forward to more disturbing tales in the months to come.