Rafael Albuquerque is back and better than ever. He’s taken the last three issues off, just rendering the hell out of this issue, and it shows. Rafa signs his work here on numerous pages, most of which annoyingly get cut off, but you can clearly see that some of these pages were completed last year. As he himself points out in a neat little spot of backmatter, Albuquerque has been trying different rendering techniques with each new American Vampire story. With this arc, he takes that ink wash style from Stephen King’s arc and stretches it to its washy limits, creating that soft, lamenting tone needed to capture an old man worrying about his mortality.
That man is Henry Preston. We last saw him mulling over the proposition of entering vampirehood, while subsequently making a deal to betray those toothy bastards. Well, a few years down the line, those problems are just aching to bite Henry in the ass. Scott Snyder’s still doing a good job with establishing Henry, setting up the question of whether he’ll die or get turned, and why we should care. This arc is also about vampires in WWII, of course, so Snyder sets up his own fang slaughterin’ version of “Kelley’s Heroes” and just briefly tells us about them. I hope next issue we’ll get a Hugo Stiglitz version of showing us about them, but that remains to be seen. The main criticism that I can make is that Snyder spends too much time in exposition mode here, pandering to a hypothetical new reader. Yes, American Vampire is a good book and you could jump on board here if you wanted to, but this issue doesn’t quite live up to the promise of “American Vampire in WWII!” outside of a two page opener, which has two pages of exposition in front of it.
In fact, those two pages seem tacked on, which is maybe why they weren’t completed until 2011. They do give Rafa an opportunity to draw more splash pages, which is something we haven’t seen much of until this issue. Albuqerque seems to be having a ball with these pages, even doing the slightest bit of hand lettering, and it’s enough to wet my appetite. His wife, Chris Peter, who’s doing a phenomenal job of computer coloring the reprints of Matt Fraction’s Casanova, has expressed interest in hand coloring. Rafa and Chris, working together, doing everything by hand? That’s the stuff that dreams are made of.