After a few issues with art by Jordi Bernet (who, mind you, is a masterful artist in his own right), this issue sees Rafael Albuquerque return to the book he created as the grand image creator. This issue also bounces quite a bit ahead in terms of chronological setting. Dropping us in Glendale, California in 1954, Scott Snyder gives Albuquerque the opportunity to join in the celebration of greasers and hot rods, rebels without causes, and parents with ulcers caused by their daughter’s dating choices. It’s a fun setting -- visually and narratively -- for us to find some vampires.
Agent Hobbes ambles into this issue, effectively threading the series’ story through to our new protagonist, Travis Kidd, from everything and everyone that has come before. Pearl Jones and Henry Preston might not be here. Skinner Sweet’s nowhere to be seen, nor is Felicia Book, but Hobbes’ presence ensures a continuation of the excitement and adventure that has come before: a continued investigation of the American ideal wedded to vampirism. That combination casts a shadow over Kidd and his girlfriend, Piper, whose parents have issues with her dating Kidd.
Snyder has crafted a world that, after nearly two years, is extremely self-sufficient and self-sustaining. There are vampires, there are vampire hunters, and there are those who have either crossed the hunters, the vampires, or both. From there, the story explodes and all bets are off. Whether or not Snyder strings the rest of the world around Hobbes and through to Pearl and/or Henry remains to be seen, but rest assured, it will be an interesting journey filled with side-swiping, drag racing, blood-sucking, and whatever-the-heck-else strikes Snyder’s fancy. The last page alone is proof enough that this new story is going to be anything but predictable.
Albuquerque, a visual chameleon, is going to supply the visuals for that journey, and if this issue is any indication, the style will be more straightforward, evocative of the comics of the Silver Age: right-angle panels with reasonable gutter-spacing, and sensible camera angles. Albuquerque jams his panels full of detail and his characters full of expression, through body language and facial clues. Cast heavily in shadow, Piper’s dad is the type of menacing figure you can see pulling a gun on our protagonist as quickly as he would cast words of derision in the same direction. Albuquerque sells every character and every scene quite brilliantly. The most stunning part is that, while it is quite obvious that Albuquerque is the artist on this issue (as he has been for a great deal of this series) his style is just different enough to give this new arc its own look and feel. Dave McCaig wonderfully matches the art style with appropriately moody coloring. McCaig throws around reds and blues, purples and oranges with great effect, helping push the story farther along the whole time.
"American Vampire" with Rafael Albuquerque on board is as right as original recipe Coca-Cola, baseball in the summer, and tricked out sports cars. Snyder's investigation of the American tradition filtered through bloodsucking vampires makes for a brilliant variation on an age-old concept, a distorted history lesson and fun read all at the same time. There is no time like the present to hop over the door into the backseat of Travis Kidd's convertible and enjoy the ride. It's not often you're given a chance to jump onto a great title with a wide open transition like this, and you won't want to miss out.