How did I get it: The library.
Why did I read it: I think King’s introduction to American Vampire explains it best, but basically I am sick and tired of vampires being friendly, innocently charming, and/or polite. Or only scary because they’re misunderstood or sad inside or something equally predictable and lame. (This will also count towards my Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge for 2011.)
How I would rate it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
From writers Scott Snyder and Stephen King, AMERICAN VAMPIRE introduces a new strain of vampire – a more vicious species – and traces the creatures’ bloodline through decades of American history.
This first hardcover volume of the critically acclaimed series collects issues #1-5 and follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King, both with art by future superstar Rafael Albuquerque. Snyder’s tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. And in King’s story set in the days of America’s Wild West, readers learn the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before.
Review: Although there are some of the typical Stephen King tropes going on, American Vampire really is a breath of fresh air for a supernatural species that is becoming excessively depressing to read about. First of all, I really pleased with Skinner Sweet, who is basically some kind of bastard son of Randall Flagg, and how he remained awful and really sort of crazy with no real agenda or moral code to speak of. Second of all, I really came to care about Pearl Jones, an aspiring young actress who ends up having her own Punisher-esque storyline where she takes a hellish revenge on the European vampires who wronged her.
Vibrantly and wonderfully illustrated by Rafael Albuqerque, the graphic novel weaves in and out of time periods as well as Pearl and Skinner’s stories as they come into contact only to go their separate ways again. There is plenty of action, plenty of horror, and a lot of violence. There is a bit of a love subplot that I really liked and Skinner’s backstory was awesome if incredibly over the top. I really liked the parallels between modern developments/progress and the new strain of vampire as well as how angry it was all making elder vampires. And honestly… who doesn’t want to end a long day by reading about an evil cowboy outlaw becoming vampire?
Although this was clearly the product of two authors, Stephen King was an excellent choice for writing Skinner Sweet’s backstory and I think Snyder held his own quite well. I really liked the way everything came together and that there were no good vampires to speak of. There were even times when I rooted for the good guys to win only to happily watch them lose and badly too. As far as things to watch out for besides a ton of graphic deaths, I will admit that the violence towards women seemed particularly heinous and occasionally gratuitous, but a lot of that was evened out by how great Pearl was as a main character as well as her overall story arc. And I think showing such things is part of the nature of the beast when it comes to actually having vampires being horrible and creepy instead of kindly and sparkling.
In conclusion, really excellent and definitely one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t think I’d wind up getting 3:10 to Yuma vs Dracula vs a 20s Starlet. Or that I’d end up refusing to come up for air until I had read every last page. If you like your vampires declawed, defanged, and well-behaved, look elsewhere. This is decidedly not your kid sister’s vampire. But if, like me, you loved vampires once with a burning passion then ended up feeling really let down when other people started liking them and giving them souls and nonsense like that and now even thinking about them makes you die a little inside, you will be thrilled by American Vampire. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read volume 2.