Tuesday, 14 December 2010

American Vampire

Remember when vampires were still scary? Perhaps you don't. I should break out my copy of Salem's Lot to remind myself that these bloodsuckers used to be more than just pale possible boyfriends in the latest teen/vamp/rom. Stephen King is one half of the writing talent on duty for this tale of mostly very bad vampires in the wild west of the late 1800s and the movie making era of the 1920s. King's introduction to the book has a lot more to say about the current state of vampire fiction and he doesn't mince words. This is also the first time King has written for comics. I know many of his stories have have been adapted for the genre but always by usually established comic book writers. This time he does it himself, which means basically writing the dialogue (no problem there) and, in place of the narrative, describing the contents and layout of the panels so the artist knows what to draw. He does a pretty good job barring a little muddiness in the way the supporting cast find their places in the opening part of the story. This book holds the origin story of our hero Skinner Sweet as told by King. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word hero as this guy was a very bad man even before he became the first American vampire. Sweet is a good creation, a vampire who revels in his new powers, whose love interest doesn't get beyond a craving for blood and candy. He's brash, violent, cunning and relentless. Alongside King's story in each issue is a later story set in Los Angeles about an aspiring young actress doing extras work for silent movies, who runs afoul of a nest of old European vampires who have an unstable truce with the powerful new vamp on the block, Skinner Sweet. This story is ably written by series creator Scott Snyder. Rafael Albuquerque does the artistic honours brilliantly in both arcs which helps the stories stand together. Under both stories is a suggestion of a subtext about America and its emerging place amongst the old world order. The book features the first 5 issues and also includes an afterword by Scott Snyder, variant covers by various artists, samples of script instructions by King and Snyder and early concept art. Altogether a nice piece of work.

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