Ever since 100 Bullets and Y: The Last Man ended I’ve been casting about for a new series to follow from DC Comics’ Vertigo line. More than any other imprint, Vertigo can lay claim to the mantle of “the HBO of comics”, with the deepest backlist of top-notch, finite, creator-driven, long-form comics stories in the industry, but the current crop was looking like a non-starter—I never connected with everybody-loves-Fables, Unwritten read like more of the same, and nothing I’d read from Brian Wood made me think that DMZ or Northlanders was my kind of good time—until American Vampire came along. It’s early days, obviously, with only three issues on the stands, but it’s already doing so much right I’m feeling pretty damn optimistic.
AV is a split-book affair, with two stories running parallel in every issue. Scott Snyder is telling the story of Pearl, a wannabe actress in 1920s LA who meets up with a group of thirsty European bloodsuckers, and Stephen King—yes, that Stephen King—is giving us the origin story of Skinner Sweet, the first truly American vampire. Rafael Albuquerque is kicking the shit out of the art from front to back, 40 pages every month and with a different style for each storyline.
I have to say, as of issue #3 I’m digging on the Pearl story more. It could be just my preference for that time period, and that art style, but it also feels like it has more at stake than King’s tale. Now, to be fair the plot mechanics of Pearl’s story pretty well telegraph how the Skinner story will end, so King is left with only mood and internal drama to hang his hat on. He did a bang-up job with that in issue #1, but in the last two I felt the horror shocks were a bit soft and obvious. Nonetheless, as a whole AV has managed that rare trick of being simple to grasp, while leaving room for infinite possibilities. I haven’t been this into a Vertigo series in a long time.
You can probably still get all three issues at most comics shops, or wait for the release of the first six issues in a hardcover collection on October 5.