Month in and month out, "American Vampire" is the kind of comic that doesn't fail to satisfy. But in the current storyline, one thing I've greatly appreciated is that it hasn't been afraid to temporarily shift genre. The first year of "American Vampire" was a mixture of western and horror, but right now? We're getting some good old-fashioned war comics. Well, war comics with vampires.
What's fun about "American Vampire" #17 is how well Scott Snyder synthesizes the genres of horror and war into one another. The Japanese's secret weapon is fully revealed here, and it's a moment that firmly straddles both influences. The comic could have easily gone in one direction or the other, but by using elements from each it ends up a much more satisfying moment. It's also entertaining when you stop and think about how much the two genres draw from the same sources overall; the "we have fifteen minutes to get out" moment fits just as well in either of those influences, for example.
"American Vampire" is also where the framing device for the story intersects the narrative's timeline, which was a nice surprise. More often than not, finally catching up with the character writing a letter explaining what happened would mean that we had little more than epilogue to go. That's not the case here; there's still more to come, and with a strong punch of a cliffhanger to bring us into the next issue. It's a small "gotcha!" moment for the comic, Snyder reminding us that, while he understands the rules, that doesn't mean he has to follow them. Some of Snyder's short stories in his book "Voodoo Heart" defiantly end (or don't end) where you expect them to, and I like him using that technique here as well.
Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig are as consistent as ever when it comes to the art in "American Vampire." Albuquerque's thick inks and washes are beautiful. It's all the more impressive the closer you look; the brush strokes have a level of subtlety about them, from individual whiskers on a face to towering steel girders. And when it comes to motion, well, the book is leaping to life. Not just in terms of the characters moving about — although Albuquerque's quite good at that — but other elements, like a fighter jet whizzing across the ocean that feels like it's sliding across the page even as you look at it. And with each illustration, McCaig's colors burst to life, adding extra depth and nuance to the pages.
"American Vampire" is a continually solid and strong comic, but that doesn't mean it's ever predictable. It is, as always, a joy to read, with just enough storytelling tweaks and surprises to keep you on your toes. It's no small wonder that "American Vampire" just won an Eisner award, because it's well deserved. Good stuff.