Every title gets to a point where it falls into a bit of a scheduled rut. It’s not actually getting worse, it’s just reached the end of its tether. The rope is pulled taut but progression is halted. The book can either shake things up and evolve as it expands, or it can tread the water it has already foamed up. This issue of "American Vampire" does a bit of both while still coming up with a technical knockout.
Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet are two American vampires joined together in so many ways. He made her, she hates him, and yet they just can’t leave the other alone. The opening sequence sees Pearl protecting her husband, Henry, from Skinner’s wrath. The actual fight feels a little stiff, the dialogue is a bit on the nose, but the resolution to this conflict is five star material. There is more between Skinner and Pearl than either are willing to admit. While they might be matching pairs at time, they are also opposite sides. That magnetism both draws and repels them.
Skinner is a manipulative string puller who is also on the stage with those he hopes to control. The outcome is an uncertain melange of players, and is played with everyone changing sides like some sort of sick master/slave game of musical chairs. Our two leads are adrift in a sea of emotions and desires which cannot ever lead to salvation. Pearl takes a large step towards realizing this, and her grand action could be a game changer for the entire series. If this is what it seems, Scott Snyder just took a very bold step with this title. If it’s subterfuge, it’s still a massive leap for Pearl.
Being a book about vampires, we expect to see vampiric action and we aren’t disappointed with a great scene in this issue. Our tired and barely surviving gang are hurled into the water after an explosion and they tread water while trying to figure out what to do. The trick is, the creepy vampires introduced in this arc are in the water just below them. The sunlight won’t penetrate as deep as they are and once the light is gone they’ll swim up to eat. It’s a brilliant use of vampiric rules to set up a very poignant scene.
In the one issue, Rafael Albuquerque delivers scenes of vengeance, horror, war, rescue, and true romance. The diversity within each issue, and on each page, makes this title flow seamlessly. These characters feel real, and they react with every fiber of their visual being. Albuquerque routinely sets himself new challenges and goals only to knock them down with preternatural accuracy. Dave McCaig’s colors bring mood to the page like knives to a gunfight, and he wins every time. The light blues of Pearl’s scene with Henry are both gorgeous and perfect.
This arc of “American Vampire” ends with one hell of a bang that will irrevocably change the future landscape for all characters. For a book full of monsters and bloody battles, it is the emotion that resonates off the page. This isn’t spectacle for the sake of a splash page; this is storytelling that puts an event up so it can impact the characters. Each arc holds a story but it adds to the pile of progression we need for change to occur. This issue will be a keystone for some characters going forward. “American Vampire” is building, and if these are just the foundations and lower floors then I look forward greatly to seeing the apex.