I Want Some Candy!

American Vampire (volume 1)American Vampire volume one cover

Words: Snyder, Scott and King, Stephen

Pictures: Alberquerque, Raphael

Vertigo Comics, 2010

ISBN:978 1401229740

Look, I’m not coming late to this vampire craze, I promise.  As we’ve already established, I like my vamps covered in blood and ripping out throats, rather than dry-humping their teenage girlfriends to the dulcet strains of some emo band – or as Mr. King so evocatively tells us in his introduction:

“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 boy, if the throat-ripping vampire is your scene, you could do worse than Skinner Sweet, the dark star of the American Vampire comic book series.

I know I’m gushing here, but honestly, this comic is just luminous.  The writing is brilliant, the artwork glorious.  Because the story traces Skinner Sweet across several decades of his existence – from his creation as a vampire in the 1920’s, in point of fact – careful attention has obviously been paid to the costuming of the characters and even their manner of speaking.  It’s just very freakin’ cool.

I know that you shouldn’t judge a story when you’re only part of the way through it, but for this I’ll break my own rule.  As a stand-alone story, Bad Blood, the Skinner Sweet origin story, works particularly well, but like many comic books which are built specifically for the drip-fed format, as you move through the volumes, it becomes more daunting to simply ‘pick up and play’.  Which is not to say you can’t do it, but I’d be loath to suggest such a thing when the beginning is so good and adds so much to your understanding of the comic.

I think that I like Sweet as a character so much because he’s completely without remorse or conscience – and that’s before he becomes a vampire.  The circumstances of his turning do nothing to improve his disposition as well.  Now that I’m thinking about it, there is a distinctly John Constantine-ish vibe about him, sans the occasional relapses into human feeling and frailties which Constantine is prey to.  I mean, you can’t not love a guy who is made for his existence so precisely, and who takes such obvious glee in it.

Stephen King is involved in the writing of volume 1, but not in any of the consequent volumes.  I can’t help but think of the Dark Tower-spinoff short story The Little Sisters of Eluria, which is in Everything’s Eventual, as it’s also about vampires, but quite a different coven of course.  Getting back to the writing, from volume 1 to volume 2 , there seems to be a marked shift in the storytelling.  Sweet is less of a main character, and almost used as a tool to bring the elements of the other stories together.  Which is fine by me – I actually kind of like it.  Pearl Jones, who has been bought back to ‘life’ after she is nearly drained by a coven of Hollywood vampires by Sweet, is realising her ‘vampire nature’ in the second volume, and being hunted for it. The cool thing about volume two’s story is that there is more information on this whole ‘different breeds’ of vampire thing, which was hinted at in the first volume, but not really expounded upon.  That’s one of the things that I really love about comics as long-form storytelling, it allows writers an opportunity to develop ideas as well as plot lines.  It’s kind of the cool thing about the undead in general, they lend themselves quite willingly to a whole bunch of different interpretations.

I’m reading this series really slowly; for some reason, it’s one of those things that you enjoy immensely when you’re actually reading it, but doesn’t compel you towards it the way that other things do.  It might be something to do with the fact that I’m wading through Murakami’s 1Q84 at the moment, as well as Kenzaburo Oe’s The Silent Cry.  Both facinating books, but they make comics seem… like… well, candy.  Skinner would approve, I’m sure.

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Posted on August 27, 2012, in Books, Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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