Title – American Vampire, Vol. 1
Author – Scott Snyder & Stephen King
(This blog in edited form first appeared in my book blog: Books and Lesser Evils)
In the introduction to this graphic novel Stephen King writes –
“…Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and only work at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewey eyes.
What should they be?
Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red…”
And that is what King and Snyder do. They write big, bloody, black as night blood, dripping and seething from every page and they make no excuses for it to the teenage romance vampires that denegrate the genre. They just did it in graphic novel form. Which is pretty great since it gives Rafael Albuquerque the opportunity to show off his work and he does that extremely well.
Snyder tells the story of would be actress and dreamer Pearl Jones in the 1920s Los Angeles. In Big Break Pearl finds herself in a Movie Producer’s home, only it isn’t what it seems to be. Instead of a sex party the Producer and his friends are something else entirely and Pearl ends up bloody and torn up in the desert.
King has written the origin to Snyder’s anti-hero, Skinner Sweet. An outlaw in the 1880s, Sweet is awaiting execution but in his plan to escape the train derails and he finds himself face to face with a Robber Baron. The Baron is no regular banker though and Skinner dies, but in doing so, mixes his blood with that of his killer.
Both Pearl and Sweet have been tainted with the blood of the vampires that killed them. Only these were old world vampires and when the curse comes to being in the new world, it takes on a different shape. A stronger more powerful vampire. One who can walk in the day. The older vampires look to control the younger breed but in fine American tradition, these new vampires refuse to become the inferiors of the European blood line and begins a vicious battle for control of the West.
These are true vampire tales told in full with plenty of history and symbolism as it expected from a good vampire story. The monsters here are real. Their blood lust rules and there is no mercy shone.
Snyder’s tale holds it’s own next to King’s and the artwork is detailed fitting for the period. But don’t get this wrong. This isn’t a panel by panel splash of blood. Snyder develops the character of Pearl. Her hopes to strike it famous and her struggle to just get by. One bad judgment call. One wrong night with the wrong man and she ends up under a pile of dead bodies in the desert with her neck torn open. But Pearl was a strong woman before she was killed and she is an even stronger woman now that she is dead and with the powers of a vampire. That and she is really, really pissed.
The Origin of Skinner Sweet is vintage Stephen King. It goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t bother dressing it up. Skinner Sweet is dead and wakes up buried and under water. He doesn’t understand exactly what happened but he doesn’t really care either. What he knows is someone put him down in that hole and that someone is going to pay.
Very high quality stories and graphics as should be expected from a Vertigo line of comics. And lots of fun too!