This second arc is all about dead bodies floating up in Vegas. It could so easily descend into goomba schtick but instead Snyder seems intent on making his tale align with more true history, but with 100% more fangs. The last issue was a blast, and a revelation and relief that Snyder is still the best thing about this comic, and this issue continues to set up the new locale and characters as well as throwing a few new ingredients into the recipe.
Skinner Sweet must be a deliciously fun character to write. He’s part thug and part schoolyard bully. You know he’s capable of killing but he comes across as the loveable scamp who you can’t help laughing at. He might have a suit on and a brothel at his disposal but he’s still the same rogue we’ve known from the start. In other words, he’s the perfect hook and center for this tale. He’s immoral, fiendish, calculating, precise, and everything you know to be true about America throughout history. He’s a cipher for the brutal and dastardly undercurrent of loveable evil that has propelled decades of outlaws and bandits to become ‘heroes.’
Chief McCogan is a great foil to Sweet because he appears to be the polar opposite. He’s willing to uphold the law, and its structures, no matter what the emotion involved. He’s not out to have books and songs written about him, he’s out to do good in the world because he thinks then it will deliver it right back. It seems he’s slowly wiping away this illusion and it will be interesting to see what is left of him when it’s completely gone.
Watching Sweet and McCogan dance around each other makes this issue interesting, but throwing in the spicy steps of Felicia Book takes it places you didn’t think it would go. We find out she’s not just an average G-(wo)man. She’s got ties with a shadowy organization, but the real zing comes from their connection to our man Sweet, or Jim Smoke as he’s known in Sin City. This reveal is the sort of thing that makes “American Vampire” a comic you can’t pin down and second-guess.
It’s been said enough times that Albuquerque is doing the work of his career on this title so I won’t belabor the point. But I will say he’s doing the work of ten artists’ careers. The way he makes Felicia act in the small panels between moments is brilliant. The flavor of his lines, expertly coloured by Dave McCaig, have steeped into this comic and made it that much better. You get a sense of genre and tone from the page alone, no less the writing slathered across them.
This issue feels like the second issue of any arc that we’ve come to be used to, where the established scenarios and characters are twisted for the action of the second act, but it feels like a very good second issue. With depth of character and well thought out and planned dialogue, this title is the sort of thing you’re going to wish you were reading when it hits issue 50 and you’re still catching up through trades. And this is the sort of issue that will sit in your stack and guarantee you a quality read. Every time.