By: Scott Snyder (writer), Dustin Nguyen (art), John Kalisz (colors), Steve Wands (letters), Gregory Lockard (assistant editor) & Mark Doyle (editor)

The Story: A couple of VMS agents & oddball vamps on the run from the minions of Dracula.

A few things (with minor SPOILERS): 1). Snyder making sure you weren’t confused. – It’s been clear for awhile that as the AV stories passed World War II, that one of the central themes was the weakening of western European institutions like the Vassals of the Morning Star.  In the real world, WWII was really the last time traditional European powers like Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany were thought of as “superpowers”.  The next 50 years were marked by the United States and Soviet Union being locked in the Cold War as the two major powers in the world.  American Vampire is mirroring that as we’re seeing the waning influence of the VMS after being on the forefront of the human/vampire battle for a millennia.  Now, an interesting question is whether the VMS will fracture (like Eastern/Western Europe), whether the VMS will become like Great Britain and be a willing ally of whatever the US is up to or will the VMS be more like France and see their role as more of an antagonist for the banner wavers in the US.  Hmmm…..

But this has all been bubbling under the surface of AV for 6 months.  If you’ve been reading my reviews, you know about this, but Snyder is taking zero chances as he moves forward.  The subtlety is gone: Dracula is loose in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and he can use his powers to infect the minds of people and vampires around the globe.  That’s Snyder whacking you over the head with a shovel and saying, “Dracula is communism, you dummy!!”  If you parallel this with what’s going on in the main AV series where the plot mirrors the Red Scare of the 1950s, this use of Dracula makes a lot of sense.

My expectation is that this must be a very important plot point to cause Snyder to be so non-subtle.

2). Very nicely written. – As with everything Snyder writes, this is nicely written.  Flipping through this comic before writing the review, there are a lot of pages that are covered in word balloons.  With a standard comic writer you brace yourself when you see these pages, but Snyder just kinda motors through the heavy parts.  Obviously being a good writer is an advantage for Snyder, but it really serves him when he wants to go into some heavy exposition.  Snyder can do it and the comic still works.  Many writers cannot, so the story has to add issues or the story must sacrifice depth.  Let’s just hope that DC is paying Snyder enough money because he could do a LOT of things for a living besides writing comic books.

3). Excellent art. – Surprise, surprise….a Dustin Nguyen comic is beautiful.  We could stop there and I’ve certainly gushed enough over Nguyen in my reviews of the first comics in this series.  Instead, let’s focus on some under-appreciated things about the art in this issue/series.  We all know that Nguyen is a beast when it comes to drawing emotive faces.  I think he draws a better smile than anyone else in the business.  But, check out that bridge that he draws partway through the issue!  The amazing thing here is how well he captures the scale of the bridge.  It’s easy for massive structures to look small and cartoony on a printed page, but Nguyen makes us believe that this is a massive structure the spans a huge gorge.  It’s really impressive.  The other thing to note in this issue is John Kalisz’s colors.  A lot of these Nguyen pages probably look pretty simple if you viewed the original art.  Much of the mood on the page is coming from Kalisz’s colors and he always seems in tune with the direction that Nguyen plots.

4). Accessible. – Another amazing thing about this issue is how accessible it is.  I mean, this is issue 4/6 of a tie-in miniseries to a story-driven series that is up to issue #30.  If any issue had an excuse to be an impenetrable, “transitional issue” it would be this one.  But, I think a new reader could pick this up and understand basically what is going on.  Sure, they’d have a few questions, but that’s to be expected.  The point is, every issue of AV is inviting to newcomers.

Conclusion: Another great issue.  The AV franchise is not showing any weakness as it chugs towards it’s 3rd anniversary.

Grade: A-

– Dean Stell