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

The Story: The Grey Trader is revealed.

Review (with SPOILERS): Bravo for pacing and layered storytelling!  Excellent comics like American Vampire really make me appreciate what is lacking in other, less imaginative stories.

Of course, I’m talking about the fact that we didn’t have to wait until issue #5-6 to have The Grey Trader revealed to us.  I’m would have been very easy to have an entire first cycle about the lead-up to the revelation of what TGT even looks like, much less who/what he is.  You know….the end of each issue would end with this very creepy looking man standing there in the distance with his top hat and cane?  Each final page he would be a little closer to the viewers perspective, so it seemed like he was coming closer and closer?  Until they showed his face at the end of issue #5?  I’m sure that Snyder and Albuquerque could have even made that a pretty hot story, and to be honest, that is the pacing I was expecting.

Then… bam! We get to see the true face of TGT in the middle of this issue.  I love that.  It wasn’t expected and I’m reading the issue and thinking, “OMG! I think they’re going to show what this dude looks like on the next page!”  Don’t you love those sorts of page-turns in comics?  We don’t get enough of them, in my opinion.

But, just to show what a sophisticated story AV is, the mystery doesn’t end with this reveal.  It’s really just beginning.  We still don’t really know what TGT is up to, what motivates him, what manner of creature he is, etc.?  Why does he attack other vampires?  Does TGT view all vampires the same way that the Carpathian vampires view the American Vampires (i.e. as a threat to be attacked)?  How does TGT connect with Dracula and the Lord of Nightmares storyline?  They call him “the Devil” at the end of the issue, but is TGT really the metaphorical embodiment of human evil (in the Biblical sense) or is TGT meant to be a some sort of inspiration for the Biblical “devil”?  I love a comic that begs such questions, especially when you trust the storytellers as much as I trust Snyder and Albuquerque.  They’ve got answers for all this stuff.  I guarantee you that there isn’t a question in this paragraph that hasn’t already been addressed in a story outline.  Readers just need to strap in and enjoy the rest of the story in confidence.

There are even other interesting bits in this issue in terms of what the Vassals are up to.  I like that Cal is becoming a more central character.  He is basically Pearl’s “son” in vampire terms, so that dynamic is interesting.  But, he is also a very different man than the other AV’s.  As we saw last issue, Skinner Sweet is still basically a rogue and outlaw because that’s all he knew as a human.  Pearl is still a sweet lady who is a simple, honest country girl, because that’s what she was in life.  Cal was a soldier and still feels that soldier’s calling to fight the enemy.  That’s probably why he is such a useful member of the Vassals.

The only thing we don’t get in this issue is Skinner.  Hmm…. I’m also not sure if there is still anything in the AV story that makes it an allegory for US history.  But, as I recall, that allegory wasn’t immediately clear in the early AV stories either.  Maybe it’ll come?

The art remains just glorious.  I mean, seeing what TGT really looks like with those weird side-fangs?  Horrible.  And the metamorphosis by the little girl vampire into a TGT-offspring was pretty amazing too.  Albuquerque really excels at drawing the monstrous.  I remember when this series was new and being floored at how primal and nasty the AV’s looked with their elongated fingers and protruding jaws.  I hardly ever talk about that stuff in my reviews anymore because I take it for granted.  That’s probably unfair, but he’s really spoiled us.  Wonderful coloring on the musical sequences too.  This whole issue is just glorious.

Conclusion: Another wonderful issue.  AV is really back with a purpose.  It is so gratifying to pick up a comic and have zero doubts about the contents being excellent.  There is never a clumsy sentence or unsteady panel and the story ideas and complex and interesting.

Grade: A

-Dean Stell