There is an exciting and incredibly large concept brewing at the center of this “American Vampire” mini, and this week it bursts through into the open. Scott Snyder has been weaving his own brutal path through what we know of vampire lore and now he shows his hand at tackling the entire mythology at its base roots. “Survival of the Fittest” is an evolutionary tale and a keystone to the entire origin of this title. This issue delivers a secret history, some delightful character work, and a finale that will hold you still until the final installment drops next month.
Dr. Pavel, a new character who supposedly holds the cure for vampirism, narrates the opening five pages as we see how he has come to this place in his life. What should be an expository info dump instead becomes a wild tall tale digging up ubiquitous corruption that will scare you. Pavel’s saga then sweeps through the harsher environments of the globe to end with a rattling new understanding of everything you thought you knew you should fear. Snyder is world building in these pages and doing it in a way most thought impossible with vampire lore.
The concept of the cure for vampirism presented here is a brilliant turn of events. It’s a scary proposition and one that will hold severe repercussions for the next issue, if not the rest of this title. The best part of this whole notion is that it gives every character an opportunity to react to it. What someone does in the face of this plan tells us a great deal about their heart and their mind. The storytelling sets up some superlative moments for later while also seeding in small character moments instantly.
Cashel McCogan and Felicia Book didn’t start off headlining “American Vampire,” and yet here they show they can absolutely do just that. Snyder has infused so much grace and elegance into the interaction of these two people in this mini that they’ve instantly shot up the charts to stand beside Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones as characters we both know and love. Cash has settled into a laconic hero and it’s exactly what the title needs. There is some wonderful dialogue in the middle of this issue, especially from Cash, that shows you exactly how a horror comic can also be a damn well written comic.
Sean Murphy settles you in with a few pages of talking heads or something equally as relaxing. He makes sure you’re enjoying yourself, he keeps everyone comfortable, he even lets you unbuckle your seatbelt a little so you can sink further into a soothing position. It is at this moment he then jams on the breaks and smashes your face into the glass hard enough to send your teeth and ribs colliding. The character moments hum with silent electricity and then you turn the page and get a panel full of disintegrating vampire heads. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of scene Murphy can’t handle. When you take such splendid story telling skills and you layer over Dave Stewart's amazing colors, you are left with pages that earn the name of ‘art.’ This is a book that looks like a gorgeous historical document.
It feels like “American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest” has been building up to a very big moment and here that moment finally pins you down. Snyder and Murphy are changing the landscape of this book while also widening the perception we can all have of things that go bump in the night. With a mixture of character and concept, Snyder proves he is one of the best writers working right now and his personal title can still go pound-for-pound with any other book in terms of sheer levels of insane pleasure per 20 page dose. If the final splash page of this issue is any indicator, you’ll all want to be here next month when things really go massive.