What's great about "American Vampire: Second Cycle" #2 is how well the book sneaks up on you. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's return to their signature series is trucking along nicely, introducing new characters and concepts as we learn more about what Pearl's been doing in-between volumes. But then, just when you think it's safe to relax -- gotcha.
I love how we're seeing more and more of a society emerging as the vampires continue to become more established in America. We're getting a greater understanding of bloodlines and tribes within the vampires, and how each species has its own nest in a different part of the world where they've banded together. The Signal Man is another example of how vampire culture is changing, utilizing a coded warning shared through different colored outfits. It's a simple but effective idea, one that brings to mind other secret call signs, like hobo codes, or markings for the underground railroad.
And of course, Snyder continues to place Pearl in the center of it all. Watching her spirit vampires to safety has been a fun new role for her, even as she's getting dragged back into danger with the arrival of a new terrifying species of vampire. With Pearl being one of the newest (and smallest) bloodlines, her encountering one that no one recognizes feels right -- and even more so when we start to learn just what that bloodline does and where it's from. It's a great cliffhanger to end the issue on, even as it expands the mystery of the vampires in general.
I enjoyed Albuquerque's recent stint as artist on "Animal Man," but his work on "American Vampire" is just phenomenal. Those heavy ink washes that I've learned to expect are back, and with a vengeance. Look at the bottom of page seven, where he and colorist Dave McCaig use them to give us a gleaming lantern that's not quite like anything else you'd see in comics. The way the light spills out of it and lights up the air around him is just beautiful. And speaking of McCaig, the way that he carefully colors each of the Signal Man's outfits on the first page is gorgeous; each is delicately shaded, standing out from those around it while not overpowering the careful designs Albuquerque has created. It's a quiet beauty, one that serves in strong contrast to the twisted monster that we get a big, full look at halfway through the issue. It's a strange mix of the familiar and alien, and it ends up looking wonderfully unsettling.
"American Vampire: Second Cycle" #2 keeps the returned series moving at a strong clip. With a mixture of horror, adventure, and even sociology, Snyder and Albuquerque are reminding us all over again what a great series this is. Check it out.