By: Scott Snyder (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (art), Dave McCaig (colors) and Steve Wands (letters) 

The Story: After a hiatus, we get reacquainted with Pearl and Skinner.

Review: It’s lovely to have this comic back.  Even though creators Snyder and Albuquerque were always adamant that the hiatus was temporary, given Snyder’s new status of Master of the DC Universe and Albuquerque getting regular work on DC titles, there was always a fear that we might never see American Vampire again.  It’s such a relief to have it back because we don’t get comics as good as American Vampire that often.

This first issue back is part review of what came before and part set-up of what is to come.  The review is modest, but it’s just enough to give a new reader an introduction to who Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet are.  It you want the whole story, you need to go read the back issues or collections, but if this is your first issue of AV, I’m sure you’ll be fine without the back material.  Scott Snyder is too inclusive of a writer to punish new customers with inside jokes that make new people feel unwelcome.

What we find in this issue is both Pearl and Skinner in a sort of Vampire Middle Age.  Pearl tried to basically live her early years as a vampire as if she was just a super-powered human.  She had human friends, a human husband and what-not, but they all got old and died while she is living forever.  So, now she is entering her hermit phase where she lives in an old farmhouse and appears to take in runaway vampire children.  It’s a neat concept and I like that Snyder is still playing with the idea that there are all these different races of vampires kinda like breeds of dog.  They look at her newest rescue project the way you’d look at a mutt at the dog park: “Hmmm…. He must have some chow because he has a partially black tongue and her snout is very terrier…”  We learn at the very end of the tale that one of these kids has had a run-in with The Gray Trader… Hmm…  I really like the idea of Pearl mothering to these kids who have been turned into a vampire.  I’d imagine that being a vampire is a difficult transition for a fully formed adult, but it would probably be really challenging for a child who hasn’t had time to develop the emotional strength to handle the transition.

Then we also catch up with Skinner Sweet who is having his own sort of middle-aged crisis.  Basically, he’s still a scum-bag and just because he is a vampire, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to still be robbing trains and banks.  Only now, times have changed and he’s robbing gun-runners on the Mexican border.  He’s hanging out in his old train car with his skeletal old girlfriend trying to find contentment, and failing.  Until he too has a run in with The Gray Trader.

Clearly, this Gray Trader will be a mysterious villain for both Pearl and Skinner to deal with.  I imagine that it will cause their paths to cross again and then we’ll have to figure out what he’s all about.  I’m intrigued that Snyder is setting him up as something OLDER than the vampires and as something that preys upon vampires.  What the heck could this Trader be?

The one thing I missed a bit in this issue was the allegory angle.  A lot of AV was been an allegory for the history of the United States.  I’m really hoping to see that continue as the timeframe advances to the 1960s.  There is so much to do with Vietnam, hippies, Watergate, fuel crises, Cold War, etc…  I just hope that we’re not moving away from that storytelling angle.

The art is splendid.  I’ve always been a fan of Rafael Albuquerque’s work on this title, but I love how he’s making it more and more his own.  The style has changed quite a bit since the beginning of the series.  It’s much looser and more open now.  Not as dark, not as inky.  I like it.  And Albuquerque is so gifted at drawing the monstrous!  Those little kid vampires are amazing.

Conclusion: A very strong return for one of my favorite series.

Grade: A

-Dean Stell