By: Scott Snyder (writer), Dustin Nguyen (artist), John Kalisz (colors), Steve Wands (letters), Gregory Lockard (assistant editor) & Mark Doyle (editor)
The Story: What are the Vassals of the Morning Star keeping under London Bridge?
A few things (with SPOILERS): 1). Delectable art! - It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to enjoy a Dustin Nguyen single issue. Not sure what he’s been up to (Batwing?), but it’s generally been things I wasn’t remotely interested in reading and this miniseries shows that you don’t have to follow your favorite artists around to new books because they’ll eventually draw something you do like. Nguyen is a different look for the world of AV which has been defined by Rafa Albuquerque and–to a lesser extent–Sean Murphy. Nguyen’s characters are much softer feeling than either of those guys and and he draws what is probably the best smile in comics today. But, one thing that Nguyen has in common with Albuquerque and Murphy is this thing where his objects, machines, landscapes, etc. are starkly realistic – when Nguyen draws chairs, he is drawing a particular kind of chair that is firmly fixed in his mind and not just some random chair – but his characters are much more cartoony. There is a definite talent to fitting cartoony characters into a realistic landscape and not having it look like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
2). Return of characters from AV:SotF - The Survival of the Fittest miniseries was one of the high points of American Vampire so far and it is wonderful to see the return of Felicia Book and Cash McCogan’s vampiric son. Felecia is just a delightful character: tough, mysterious, sexy, smart… She’s also interesting because she identifies as “human” even though she is 50% vampire. And, when we last saw Cash’s son, he was a vampire who was given “the treatment” that was supposed to cure him. Is this kid 100% human now? I’d tend to think not. For one thing, if it has been 15 years since the events of SotF….he sure doesn’t look 15 years old (and Nguyen can actually draw children, so he can probably draw a kid to look whatever age he wants). For another….it wouldn’t be a very interesting story if he was 100% human. And, it appears that Felicia has shield the kid from the world of vampires. Hmm???
3). Effortless to read. - Scott Snyder never writes a clumsy sentence. That’s something I appreciate when proofreading my own writing. I’ll think, “Gosh…I wish I could write as well as that guy.” In comics we talk about “writing” as if it is interchangeable with “story concept” even though we all know they are different things. Snyder clearly has cool ideas, but he is also expert at pulling us through the story with his words. As I said…never a clumsy sentence. Plus, he understands how comics work and knows how many words to write for particular panels so that your eyes move at the pace he wants. Snyder makes comics a wonderful experience and he’s the best current writer in the medium outside of Alan Moore (who only sporadically graces us with his presence). He’s probably too good to be doing comics, but I’ll take him while he’s here.
4). Weaving in a well-known vampire. - After the last mini-arc in AV-proper, we saw how Snyder was weaving in werewolves and zombies and other nasty critters. So, we knew he was embracing a bigger world of monsters. In this issue, he brings in the BIG GUY: Dracula! That’s a ballsy choice by Snyder because he is now working with a character where the reader has a LOT of preconceived notions. Plus, Dracula has appeared in so many fictional works that every reader will have a different concept of what Dracula should be. Is he that guy in current Marvel comics? Is he Gary Oldman with make-up? Bella Lugosi? I tend to think Snyder will be up to the challenge, but it WILL be a challenge. I’m also curious to see if Dracula stays confined to this miniseries or if he ends up being a player in the larger AV universe…and…if he does bleed over to AV-proper, how Snyder uses him in his allegory of America.
5). Great jumping on point. - Here’s a news flash: Not everyone reads American Vampire! This series sells 15-20K issues per month and that means that there are a LOT of you who haven’t tried this goodness. Maybe you thought the story was too advanced since AV-proper is into the late 20′s. Well….you could just pick up this issue and just read it. There are a few little things you might be slightly confused about: Who is Agent Hobbs? What are the Vassals of the Morning Star? But, rest assured, we regular readers don’t know that much more than you do. So, if you’ve been interested in trying American Vampire, this is a perfect chance to do so. Don’t wait for the trade. Snyder and company produce wonderful single issues.
Conclusion: Great issue. There isn’t a single flaw in the book. Great art. Great story concept. Great pacing. Great writing. Satisfying for new readers and established readers alike. Reviewing AV is like grading the homework of the gifted children at school: you expect more but they still impress.
- Dean Stell