Here's one of the things that's great about "American Vampire": no matter how much you think you know exactly what's going on, there's always a surprise lurking around the corner.
"American Vampire" #9 brings "Devil in the Sand" to a conclusion, and a lot of it plays out as you would expect. The vampires make their move, the vampire hunters are ready to take them out, and Cashel McCogan is caught right in the center of it all. There's a lot of undercurrents of family running through the issue; Cashel's relationship with his father now that he knows the truth about Gus, Cashel and Lilly's unborn son, Felicia Book's father having been killed by Skinner Sweet, and the different vampire bloodlines trying to exterminate the other vampire families. Most of us are going to find ourselves pleased at the next family reunion that the worst thing to worry about is great-aunt Marie's potato salad instead of betrayals and a rain of bullets. It's more than just window-dressing here, though; it's what ultimately drives all of these characters through the story. No matter the setting it's always a powerful motivator that's easy for the reader to latch onto, and that's no exception here.
But as mentioned before, Scott Snyder isn't afraid to keep a surprise or two up his sleeve. The final scene of the storyline is a direct set-up for things to come, and I'm quite interested in seeing just how this new development will play out over time. With Snyder not afraid to jump ahead several years between stories, it's a moment that will probably happen sooner rather than later. And even when some moments aren't as surprising as others, it's still so satisfying that you don't mind. When Skinner Sweet makes his final kill in the cave, for instance, you know what's going to happen in advance but his dialogue just crackles in such a way that you'll imagine your favorite actor for the part just zinging those lines at the audience.
And of course, as always, Rafael Albuquerque delivers on the art. His lanky, bad to the bone characters look as dangerous as ever, and I love his choice of when to use shadow to create a figure instead of fine detail work. Cashel holding the gun on his father is a perfect example, the silhouette of Cashel with the light from outside drowning out his features has a strong visual punch. You can get from Cashel's posture exactly what he's feeling, and the features that aren't draped in shadow continue to bring across those emotions of anger and betrayal. Mateus Santolouco draws the first three pages of the issue, a flashback to when Cashel was first adopted, and now that I've seen them I'm eager to see his two-part stint on the book in issues #10-11. There are similarities between Santolouco and Albuquerque's art, but there's a slightly more controlled and solid look to Santolouco's art that sets them apart, and (as much as I love Albuquerque's art) it'll be fun to see him get two full issues under his belt.
"American Vampire" continues to move from one strength to the next, and this issue is no exception. Hurry up and read this book, already. You're missing out on the next big thing.