Thursday, December 20, 2012

American Vampire by Scott Snyder

If you're of the school of thought that vampires should be neither sparkly nor mushy-hearted toward humans — that they should be depicted, instead, as stone-cold killers with moral compasses of dubious quality, then Scott Snyder's American Vampire graphic novel series may be right up your blood-stained alley.

Volume 1, which is in our fiction section, follows two separate storylines linked by one Skinner Sweet, a rabble rousing, blood drinking, candy chomping member of Vampire Version 2.0. Skinner belongs to a new breed of vampire forged in the crucible of American history. Unlike his European predecessors, he can walk in the sun without fear of self-combustion. Not surprisingly, old-school vampires are not pleased by this development.

It is this revelation that arises in the first of the two stories: A young woman named Pearl goes to Hollywood in the search of fame and fortune in 1925. Her innocence, however, attracts the wrong kind of attention from a pack of literal blood-suckers who leave her for dead. But Skinner Sweet has other ideas, rousing her from death so Pearl can have a second chance at life. Not to mention revenge.
"Just picture it in automotive terms. Bloch and his kind, they're like old, broken down European clunkers, okay? But you and me, Dolly? We're like shiny new 1926 Fords. Top of the line, just rolled out onto the showroom floor.

"See sometimes, when the blood hits sometime new, from somewhere new it makes something new. With a whole new bag of tricks, get it?"
The other story follows Skinner Sweet during his outlaw days in the Old West. Having robbed a prosperous businessman (who also happens to be an Old World vampire), Sweet finds himself captured. But you and I both know it's just a temporary detour for the wayward hellion.

Skinner Sweet makes for a fascinating character because he has no soft spots to him. He's all sly smiling ferocity who does what he wants, no matter the rules and what's right. He kills without seeming conscience. He holds a grudge like nobody's business. He's wily, unpredictable, and a whole lot of fun.

Pearl is no shrinking violet either, particularly once her fangs come in. Because she's newly turned, through her eyes we get to see her confusion and fear as she realizes what's become of her, and how easily her predatory instincts click in. Yet she retains her humanity through her relationship with Henry, a romantic interest from before her change who chooses to remain by her side afterward.

American Vampire earned the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in 2011 for Best New Series, which should give you some idea of how well-regarded it is by the comic book world. Volume 1, which Snyder co-wrote with bestselling author Stephen King, is lavishly illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.

If you've not yet tried graphic novels or are looking for a different kind of vampire, I recommend you give this book a try.

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