Monday, April 8, 2013

Vampires that suck and a narrative that doesn't


American Vampire:  Volume 1

by Scott Snyder and Stephen King

Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque

Published by Vertigo

4 Out of 5 Stars

I've always loved vampire narratives, but these days I feel as though I have to make that statement with a "but not those sparkly Meyers' bullshit vamps" disclaimer because the term "vampire" now requires two definitions: 1) glittering and eternal boy band wannabe who tries to protect naive (and horny!) young women from the monster he's become while slurping up woodland critters like they're Hi-C fruit boxes, and 2) vampires who seduce and cruelly toy with their prey before ripping open a jugular and letting someone else worry about the clean up. When it comes to vampires, I'm more of a "Team Kill" than "Team Brood." I tell you all of this to say that I really enjoyed American Vampire, which returns vampires to their more horrific origins: the single-minded drive of a predator coupled with human intelligence. Nothing is more terrifying.

The story is actually two intertwined narratives: the story of Skinner Sweet, a ruthless outlaw in the twilight of the Old West, and Polly, a Hollywood extra in the 1920's. Until Skinner is accidentally turned, vampires in America consist of Old World European vampires who have come to the United States to feed on the economic boom, as well as the unsuspecting populace. With Skinner's creation, a new kind of vampire is brought into being: one who can walk during the day and who is not susceptible to the weaknesses of the generation that came before him. It turns out that, with each new vampiric creation, a new and unpredictable strain of vampirism comes into being. Therefore, the European vampires jealously guard their "gift" lest they create a breed that can eventually overthrow them. This plot twist promises for rich and varied narratives as we follow these vampires into future storylines; Skinner creates Polly, a vampire whose powers mimic Skinner's but may ultimately eclipse his.

Of the two storylines, I preferred the Stephen King narrative about Skinner Sweet, but I'm a sucker for the Old West. However, it was a close call as Snyder's tale is equally intriguing and Polly is definitely one badass mamma-jamma.

While not quite as violent as I expected, Snyder and King have definitely given a tired genre a new life with plenty of subtext about American innovation versus European traditionalism. So keep the anemic Edwards of young adult narratives. From now on, I'll take my vampires like I take my tea--Sweet, please. 


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