Sunday, January 12, 2014

A New Red Scare

American Vampire:  Volume 5
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque and Dustin Nguyen
Published by Vertigo
4 Out of 5 Stars

As usual, Scott Snyder's American Vampire continues to kick ass with its gritty, unique take on the vampire mythos.

In this collection, we're given two complete story lines and the teaser for a third. In the first two, there's a return to some of my favorite characters in the series. While I enjoy how Snyder continues to branch out by exploring different time periods in American history, as well as the humans and vampires that inhabit them, the characters of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones, and Felicia Book will always be my favorites.

In the first story, Felicia Book is reluctantly drawn back into The Vassals of the Morning Star when a vampiric threat targets her son. But this isn't just any vampire; this is Dracula, the Carpathian king who has lain dormant in the VMS stronghold until freed by the Russians. Of the two stories, this was my favorite as we witness Snyder seamlessly blend the Dracula myth into the world of American Vampire. My one complaint, however, is that the ending is abrupt and somewhat anti-climatic, but this gives me hope that maybe this story isn't as finished as Felicia believes.

The second story returns to Pearl Jones, the vampire whose husband, Henry, hangs between life and death after the events in volume 4. In an attempt to save him (and in a story line that somewhat mirrors that of Felicia Book), Pearl agrees to work for the VMS hunting down vampires who may be hiding in the homes of the Hollywood elite (giving an ironic twist to the "Red Scare" of the time period). This is not an easy decision for Pearl as she must team up with the ruthless, sadistic vampire who turned her--Skinner Sweet. Witnessing Pearl grapple with her feelings for Henry and coming to terms with his mortality is one of the strengths of this arc.

Finally, we have the third story, which does little more than return us to Abilena Book, mother of Felicia, and a new threat known only as The Gray Trader. Because this issue was published before American Vampire went on hiatus, we'll have to wait for its return in March 2014 to know precisely what this threat is, but there's no doubt that Abilena hasn't settled into old age and she's ready to rumble.

Overall, this is a strong collection and I continue to be impressed with Snyder's ability to weave all of these arcs into a story that moves the vampire out of the tired European conventions and into a story as vast and open to possibilities as the American West.

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