I'm normally a little skeptical about spin-off mini-series from an ongoing comic. A title like "American Vampire" has never been afraid to set some of its main characters aside for months at a time, so in theory "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" #1 could have run as part of the regular series. But by the end of the first issue, I found myself sold on why this should be its own mini-series; both in terms of Scott Snyder's story and also Dustin Nguyen's art.
Set in 1954 London, Snyder quickly sets the scene; an extremely dangerous vampire being freed, a former agent from the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star getting pulled back into active duty, a human child who was once a vampire and then transformed back into a mortal. Parts of "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" were set up in earlier "American Vampire" comics, but Snyder reminds old readers and fills in new ones on any pieces of information they would need to do in order to be comfortable. More importantly, Snyder needs to convince us why "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" is an important story to warrant its own subtitle, and I believe he gives us just that. There are hints early on that start to explain why this one vampire is so important, and the pay off on the last page clinches the deal. By the time we're given that last piece of the puzzle, Snyder's teased our interest enough that it's a strong cliffhanger on which to end the first issue.
Perhaps even more important, though, is that "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" #1 existing as its own unit means that while Rafael Albuquerque continues to handle the majority of art duties on "American Vampire" itself, we can have Nguyen step in for all of "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares." I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed getting a monthly title drawn by Nguyen, but "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" #1 quickly reminded me of what I'd been missing as of late. Nguyen and colorist John Kalisz work perfectly together. Like Albuquerque and Dave McCaig on the parent title, Nguyen and Kalisz use a combination of ink washes and coloring to provide an overall look that reminds me of watercolors. The grey of the Thames River or the café stones comes across perfectly, and that's before more vibrant colors and explosive subjects are tackled by the duo. When Agent Hobbes finds what "Tommy Glass" has managed to achieve, the look of horror on his face is strong and palpable; even if we didn't see the carnage that he's viewing actually drawn, the expression and reaction from Hobbes would be enough to give us the same response. Just as easily, though, Nguyen draws the quieter moments of "American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" #1. Tree-lined Paris streets and winding staircases look beautiful, and even shrouded in darkness, the interior of Book's apartment makes me just a little bit enchanted by its furnishings.
"American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares" #1 is another strong "American Vampire" comic, and one that is living up to the need for it being its own mini-series. If you haven't read "American Vampire" up until now, this is a good a place as any to jump in and see what you think. For readers who are already familiar with the series, though, it's a crucial new chapter that fits in well with everything else that we've seen so far. All in all, a win-win for everyone involved.