With this issue comes three firsts for American Vampire: the first issue with Scott Snyder writing solo, the first issue of the new arc, “Devil in the Sand”, and the first issue at 3.99 with no additional pages.
Scott Snyder’s writing and the start of the new arc go hand in hand, so let’s get the price tag out of the way. Come January, this won’t even be a problem, as this title goes back to 2.99. However, it’s worth noting that even though this issue of American Vampire costs more than your average Vertigo comic, this one has significantly better paper quality. Besides the slick cover, American Vampire’s interior pages look and feel great, and really capture the brilliance of Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig. It’s another reason why this is quite possibly the best looking Vertigo comic currently being published, which, considering the competition of Allred, Guera, and other greats, is really saying something.
This is a bit of a “jumping on” point for new readers, as established readers may be surprised to see that Pearl and Skinner hardly appear. Snyder spends the bulk of the issue introducing us to Cashel McCogan, and the particular time and place in America he inhabits. That’s Las Vegas, Nevada, circa 1936, by the way. Snyder further weaves his particular brand of vampiric mythology as well, including some spotlight on Felicia Book, the girl we saw ominously introduced at the end of last issue. Snyder does just fine without Stephen King, of course. His dialogue is appropriately hardboiled, and his “particular brand of vampiric mythology” is really what we’re all here for, right? The only problem is that most of the issue is filled with exposition. Snyder tries to punctuate it as best he can, but the issue still feels sluggish at times.
As I mentioned, Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig are just terrific. They’ve changed styles to accommodate the new arc. Albuqerque appears to be using crisp inks, but his linework is much looser and scratchier than what you saw in Snyder’s portion of the first arc. No doubt this is to capture the noir ambiance of the arc. This is contrasted with McCaig’s particularly glaring color palette. However, this fits perfectly with the garishly-neon Vegas environment. In addition to the great work of those two gentleman, I also noticed the expertise of the letterer, Steve Wands, in this issue. Check it out. That I noticed Wands in this particular issue is an indication of Snyder’s increasing comfort with using sound effects, I think.
So, this first issue of the new cycle can be a bit slow at times, but that’s made up for with Snyder’s intriguing mythology, and the consummate efforts of the rest of the creative team. You’d be fine starting your American Vampire journey here, but you really should read the first arc at some point.