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

The Story: More about the Gray Trade becomes clear and a familiar anti-hero returns.

Review (with SPOILERS): I really like the way the story is unfolding in the second cycle of American Vampire.  Here in only the third issue, we have The Gray Trader basically identified as “the devil”.  And he’s not some metaphysical construct either.  TGT is a corporeal being that lives in the bowels of the Earth and he takes the essence of your dead loved ones down there with him.  A single bite from TGT is enough to infect a being and turn them into his minion.  Then on the side of “good”, we have the American Vampires.  We’ve already seen them pitted against the old-fashioned “Carpathian” vampires in the first cycle of this story.  Now we’re learning that TGT basically created the Carpathians, and since the Carpathians created the AVs by mistake, the AVs are essentially TGT’s wayward grandchildren.

So, while the first cycle of this story was about the AV’s being an allegory for American history in the 20th century (new land, new vampires, growing into their place on the world stage).  The second cycle might be about something deeper with TGT being the inspiration for the Devil of various religions and the AVs being tasked with fighting The Devil.  There are still a lot of general ambiguities around the story.  For example, we don’t know if there is something special about the AVs – some American quality – that helps them resist the evil of TGT and want to fight him.  Why are the AVs basically the same people they were in life, whereas all of the other vampires descending from TGT have an essence of evil about them?  There is still a LOT for Scott Snyder to unpack in this story.

What really makes me look forward to the rest of the story is the knowledge that Snyder is my kind of writer.  He pitches stories that are right in my wheelhouse in terms of complexity and depth.  I think I tend to like a deeper story than most comic readers, but there are some comic creators who are undeniably deep but who create impenetrable comics (from my perspective).  Ted McKeever is one example.  I know some people really dig his work, but I just can’t wrap my mind around it.  Dash Shaw is another example.  I just can’t get there with Shaw.  On the flip side, there are lots of writers who are telling very straight forward stories – mostly in the Big 2 superhero comics.  I’m not opposed to those stories, but there often isn’t a lot of subtext to study and I get bored.  Dan Slott, great writer, fun writer… Not much subtext.  In this Goldilocks world, Snyder is a perfect writer for me.

Another thing I’m really enjoying about AV is the art of Rafael Albuquerque.  I was recently looking at some earlier issues of AV and its amazing how much his style has changed over the course of the series.  It’s much looser now.  I wonder if he’s naturally a looser artist who was “tightening up” to make the early issues of AV more comfortable for the American audience?  Or if this is just the natural evolution of an artist?  To be honest, I probably prefer the tighter style that he used to use, but there is still a ton of power in what he’s doing now.  I mean, his ability to showcase the monstrous is really amazing.  Think of all the different types of vampires he’s created in this series!  This newest creation of a little girl grown into an over-sized monster with mouths sprouting from her chest… Whoa!  And he gets all the little moments right too; he’s the one who sells it when the dying girl vampire reverts slightly to human form.

Conclusion: This second cycle is off to a really strong start.  It’s so nice to have a consistently strong comic like AV back in our lives.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell