A word of warning my friends, this review spoils the end of the previous issue. If you don't want to know what the big reveal was at the end of "American Vampire" #23, walk away.
Still here? Good. Let's get this out of the way right now: Skinner Sweet is back. If you're a regular reader of the series, you know the impact that previous sentence just hit you with. If you're not a regular reader, it's kind of like this: Michael Jordan just came back to the NBA. OK, so Jordan isn't really back, but Skinner Sweet is, and he's none too happy to be challenged by upstart vampire killer Travis Kidd. Simply put, Sweet is a total badass and without him, there is no "American Vampire." Sure, the brand could continue, but like the NBA with Jordan, it would be just completely different.
Kidd has a grudge to settle with Sweet, and in this issue, writer Scott Snyder tells us quite a bit about the origin of his grudge and the history of Kidd's relationship with Linden Hobbes of the Vassals of the Morning Star. Snyder has effortlessly populated the "American Vampire" universe with believably-real characters and taken it all a step further by weaving all of the characters' stories together in a manner that is both masterful and fundamental. This is how universes need to be built. This is how characters come to life. This issue is a wonderful sample of everything that Snyder has accomplished throughout the series to date.
The vivaciousness of the characters is enhanced by the meticulous art of Rafael Albuquerque, which is intimidating in its keen detail masked by apparent simplicity. Albuquerque has taken his responsibility on this title to heart and pours his heart into it. Shots depicting young Travis clearly show the same character as the older, more world-weary Travis who stands toe to toe against Skinner Sweet. Furthermore, Albuquerque constructs the world around Travis and Sweet. The cars the two are racing are heavy, solid pieces of American machinery. The desert they race across is arid and dry. The fangs in Skinner's mouth are deadly and sharp. Snyder breathes life into these characters, but Albuquerque teaches them how to walk, run and dance.
There are scenes in this book where the world needs to melt away so the characters and the characters become the sole focus for the readers. In those scenes, Dave McCaig's colors are less hues applied to images than they are the defining factor in creating the setting and mood. McCaig runs through an impressive palette in this issue, but does so only as the colors fit the story.
The theme of this issue is "consequences," and the legend of "American Vampire" is fit to burst with with them. Travis Kidd has made some choices resulting in some weighty fallout, and Skinner Sweet is the messenger of repercussion. There's one more installment left in this "Death Race" storyline, and I'm certain the consequences stemming from that issue will be set to play out in "American Vampire" for a good long time to come.