This series is still telling two sixteen-page stories per issue. The first, written by series creator Scott Snyder, being about Pearl’s death, caused by old European vampires, and rebirth, caused by the first American Vampire, Skinner Sweet. The second, written by guest writer Stephen King, is naturally about the death of Sweet at the hands of old, European vampires and his rebirth as the first American Vampire. Put like that, the parallels seem obvious, but it’s really in this issue that I started to notice the nuances, the way the two stories play off each other.
The issue opens with Snyder’s tale, along with the series’ most notable misstep. The first two pages are most likely an attempt at style and character building, but unfortunately the attempt fails, and does nothing but telegraph the major twist a few pages away. Thankfully, the rest of Snyder’s installment plays out well. Pearl has her natural showdown with the bastards who killed her, which is followed by a tender love scene between Pearl and her new love, Henry.
At first glance, that love scene may seem pedestrian, it being the typical human-lets-the-vampire-sensually-suck-their-blood-to-save-their-life bit, but Snyder makes this scene unique in two ways. Well, Snyder and his artistic collaborator, Rafael Albuquerque. For one, the gender roles are reversed here, with Pearl being the vampire and Henry being the human. This breaks the recent stereotype set by Twilight and True Blood. It’s always nice to have the woman doing the bloodsucking. Secondly, the shadowy kiss between Pearl and Henry mirrors a scene in American Vampire #1. That earlier scene signified a love that Pearl thought she wanted, which ultimately led to her doom, while this new one represents genuine and requited love. I’m sure Snyder intended for the reader to make this connection, but it was really sold by Rafael Albuquerque.
Speaking of Rafael, how did he handle Snyder’s segment? Well, wonderfully as always. He plays the action scenes between Pearl and the vamps with a looser, kinetic style. This is then contrasted by the gorgeous, picturesque visuals that Rafael renders for the love scene. Those panels certainly look better, but I appreciate Rafael’s change of style to fit the action.
Stephen King’s installment contains a showdown, too, between Skinner and his original captors, back when he was still a human. In addition to that parallel, King’s segment also includes a brief love scene. This one’s much more uncomfortable, between an old man and his goddaughter. But King, even working with these parallels and adhering to Scott Snyder’s creation, still manages to get his trademark style across. He asks Rafael to render some memorable images, with Skinner waiting in the dark, torches lit, sitting on a throne of carcasses. Hell, King even has Skinner block a bullet with a rock! It’s fun stuff.
Rafael has action to draw in King’s story, too, but the action is much more organized and coherent, as it often is in the Westerns that Stephen King is paying homage to. This allows for Rafael to utilize his gorgeous style throughout, while still making the look of this segment recognizably different from Snyder’s tale. Rafael makes King’s story appropriately rougher, dustier, and meaner.
Though the issue begins with a misstep, the rest is gold. Plenty of blood and fun to be had, with both Snyder and King writing creatively. And, fortunately, the two men have Rafael Albuquerque to convey their twisted ideas.