American Vampire Anthology #1 (Comic)
Art by Becky Cloonan, Rafael Albuquerque, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Francesco Francavilla, Declan Shalvey, Various
Cover by Rafael Albuquerque
Published by Vertigo Comics
American Vampire has made its mark in a world over-crowded with vampire tales in comics, straight to DVD, and on the big screen, which is no easy task. Slick writing and an interesting, new addition to classic vampire lore set this title apart from the pack. The stories generally focus on a man-monster called Skinner Sweet, who does not spend one second urging you to love him, but you can't help it, especially if you're a horror fan whose heroes include Pinhead and Leatherface.
Skinner is an American Vampire with elongated, Nosferatu-like fingers and the ability to walk in the daylight, ever pursued by the European vampires who call him an abomination and those who would end his monstrous dance across the roads of the United States... and across time itself.
Now, with this American Vampire Anthology #1, Vertigo hands the secret history of a blood-red America over to a host of gifted writers and artists who add their own sensibilities and creativity to this horrific world.
The highlights include:
"Lost Colony," written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Declan Shalvey proposes that the first settlers in the Americas may not have come for precious metals, furs and land. When the natives discover white creatures among them, they must choose to stand and fight for their land or flee in a seemingly hopeless gesture of survival. The pacing of the story is somber and resolute, and the art enhances this tone with enough deep shadows to do Frank Miller proud. It's fast and angry, and I'd now love to read a whole series with Native Americans vs. Vampires!
"Canadian Vampire," written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Ray Fawkes, introduces a burly, bearded man for hire taking on the task of clearing out some Native Americans standing in the way of "progress." Since he has taken the job, we can assume that, much like Skinner Sweet, the man is just as much a monster as the undead creatures he is surely about to meet, but just like Skinner, he is so badass you have to love him. "Canadian Vampire" moves at lightning speed, presenting you with a horrible act about to happen, revealing a heart underneath a seemingly black exterior, and then giving birth to a legend as the man from Canada takes on all comers with a hatchet and the will to split everything in his path in two. AWESOME!! This one's a keeper. Find a better title for a movie than "Canadian Vampire"!! I dare you.
"Greed" with story and art by superhero Becky Cloonan brings Skinner Sweet back into the fold, but rather than have him go kill crazy, it tells the story of a desert movie shoot haunted by our favorite American Vampire. The crew is so oblivious to this lurking terror, being impatient individuals from Hollywood and all that, they even get Skinner to stand in when a crew member falls "ill." This story unfolds like a classic indie creeper and cleverly sets up thoughts that take Skinner into the stories we've come to love from Issue #1.
"Essence of Life" is from Gail Simone (no, I don't want to make out with her!!) with art from Tula Lotay, bringing a more dreamy, classic art style to this vintage 1920's tale. A simple flower shop girl with dreams of Hollywood stardom and no hesitation to do what she must, however foul, to seize her chance, finds her soul can't quite handle the price of fame and chooses to get rid of it all together. It's dirty and sad... and then heartbreaking... and then ridiculously bloody fun in ways that would make Stephen King grin from ear to ear.
You get eight stories and a wrap-around from the boys who started it all, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, in 72 pages of deliciously nasty horror than can go toe-to-toe with the best horror films in theaters today. Highly recommended.
4 out of 5