Jarad’s Comics In Review – American Vampire: Anthology and The Long Road to Hell

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American Vampire Anthology
Written by: Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon
Art by: Becky Cloonan, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Francesco Francavilla, Declan Shalvey
Published by: Vertigo Comics
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Hiatus. One of the most dreaded words in the English language. Dramatic, but also accurate describing the current extended intermission of American Vampire; this is killing me. Luckily, Scott Snyder, who is currently writing Batman, Superman Unchained, and the criminally underrated The Wake, took pity on my poor soul (and his readership) and assembled an all star cast to tell some tales to satiate the masses. At a hefty $8.99, American Vampire Anthology may make some casual readers blink, and that is a mistake. Do not let the price of this issue alone act as a barrier to entry. Of course I do not know of many casual American Vampire readers, most are as ravenous as Skinner Sweet, and already have their copy in hand, or are waiting for it to ship. I just received my shipment in and this was the first of 65+ books I read.

This anthology is a series of vignettes by some of the medium’s premiere talents. It is always a thrill to see how other authors and artists react when given the opportunity to play in someone else’s sandbox and this does not disappoint. This is a literary jam band issue that reacquaints us with new seemingly standalone characters, some minor notes, and then major players in Hattie Hargrove and Skinner Sweet. You don’t have to be a vampire to be a monster, something that these writers take to heart. It would be too easy if there was a delineation that was that clear. On its own this book is a fine read, but is not essential reading for those expecting this to drive the story forward.

However, imagine this as a huge supplement that fills in some history and gives some characters like Hattie Hargrove, some much needed humanity. She isn’t sympathetic, but at least now you will understand her heelish turn. “The Producers” is probably my favorite stand alone tale, and in a lot of way sets up the series.

The only complaint I have is entrenched within this format itself, through no fault of the authors, I am left wanting more, as some things seem rushed. It is more difficult to write a well realized story in under 10 pages, and I think its a real testament to the authors that you care about hitherto unknown quantities that actually affect the history of the series. “Canadian Vampire” in particular seems completely unrelated to the happenings of the series proper, but in fact has important ties.

Rafael Albuquerque is the definitive artist on this series, and his art is firmly entrenched as what sets the mood. However, it is always nice to see someone try something different, and with this medium sometimes artists are willing to take risks, not all pay dividends, but I can appreciate the variety. Francesco Francavilla pens and illustrates “The Producers” and it looks stunning. Ray Fawkes, Ivo Milazzo, and Tula Lotay are not names I am particularly familiar with, but each presents art that is unique, and not native to most mainstream comics. I would love to see what Tula Lotay could do in Fairest. The team of Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are no strangers to the world of horror, and do not disappoint their many fans, but it is consistent with their previous work.

At the end of the day this was just a temporary respite until the series proper returns to regular publication, but reminded me why I love the characters and universe.

4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.

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American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell
Written by: Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
Art by: Rafael Albuquerque
Cover by: Rafael Albuquerque
Variant Cover by: Tony Moore
Published by: Vertigo Comics
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Life doesn’t provide you with a lot of chances to get two bites at an apple, but I am seizing this one by throwing in a bonus review.

There are a couple of familiar faces in this special. Specifically one of my favorite vampire hunters Travis Kidd. There’s something about a brash young hunter that uses wooden fangs and swords to dispose of vampires that is intriguing. The visual is really striking; James Dean with a sword; Pure attitude with a splash of fair play. Travis’ charisma and devil may care attitude are universally appealing.

This isn’t really Travis Kidd’s story. Scott Snyder and Rafeal Albuquerque weave a love story involving some pick pockets who fall victim to an unexpected calamity. The pickpockets are trying to steal so they can finance a wedding with the implication that they may “retire” after. This could have easily been a three issue arc in the main series, it fits the tone and look, but it works better as a standalone tale as it gives both Snyder and Albuquerque room to spread out the story without being forced to leave a tantalizing hook or cliffhanger for the next issue.

There are very few happy endings in life (especially in the American Vampire universe) so I am not surprised to see this carried forward. Aren’t all love stories inherently tragic? Every marriage ends in death or divorce, but I digress. There are some hints of things to come. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of a certain child that makes an impact that even touches Kidd’s ice cold heart and humanizes him, if only for a moment…

There are a lot of tropes in the tale, but when it is done this well, I don’t particularly mind, I eagerly wait for Kidd’s next appearance and wonder how he and other newly introduced characters will ultimately weave into the mythology of the series.

4 out of 5 Nerdskulls