It’s typical for an ongoing’s initial arc to be mostly setup, especially when that initial arc contains an extended flashback sequence which further establishes the setting, characters, etc. With American Vampire, that initial attention to setup hasn’t ceased. With each issue, Scott Snyder continues to weave his elaborate vampiric tapestry, and although we’re only on issue eight, things are getting juicy.
With issue six, you saw more of the Book family’s presence. That presence increases in this issue. With issue seven, I noticed the central theme of dead fathers. That theme continues in this issue. The first arc was about the war between the old, European vampire and the American vampire. With this arc, we’re starting to see more types of vampires. Snyder’s even naming them for us. The Carpathian is of course your traditional “I vant to suck your blood” vampire. This issue, the winged Chiropterus vampire is mentioned. If you research that name, it’s likely that this is a soon-to-be-seen Mexican vampire. And what would a vampire series be without a society of humans who vow to rid the world of vampires? For that, Snyder introduces the Vassals of the Morning Star in this issue. Again, this is only at issue eight, but at this rate, the series’ Wikipedia entry will soon be a mile long, and maybe, just maybe, a geeky convention dedicated to the series will open someday.
As always, Rafael Albuquerque is here to wonderfully render Snyder’s ideas. This issue, he’s asked to draw a badass flying vampire swooping down to blow up some cars and kill a few people. He does so with vicious beauty. But, Albuquerque’s mostly called upon to handle scenes of informative exposition and reactionary dialogue, and this is where Rafael truly shines. He doesn’t boringly fall into the decompression mold, with repeated widescreen panels that choked our beloved medium last decade. No, Albuquerque makes sure that every panel is fresh, with an expressionistic camera angle, a dynamic layout, or a clever use of background and shading.
Besides presenting interesting ideas, Snyder remembers to form compelling characters, so that they can be present without physically being so, and keep the dialogue witty and emotionally charged. It’s that virtue that helps keep American Vampire a satisfying monthly comic, raising it above the “wait-for-trade” status.