Rating: 4.5/5 – All-star creators telling dark little stories.
I’ve been a fan of American Vampire by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque since it debuted in 2010, another very strong Vertigo staple. The series is currently on hiatus, Scott Snyder had his hands full with Batman, but this anthology with an all-star line-up of creators telling stories in the American Vampire world provides some nice looks at different times, places and characters.
Anthologies are usually a mixed bag, I get them all the time and am often disappointed when I like only about a third of the offerings. This one was a home run for me, I liked every story. Some more than others, of course, but there wasn’t a single one that left me with that *meh* feeling.
Snyder & Albuquerque provide a framing story “The Man Comes Around” set in 1967, of all the stories presented, this is the one that seems to rely most on having some previous exposure to the American Vampire franchise. The other stories seem to be enjoyable on their own for any fan of vampires/dark fiction without any specific knowledge of the American Vampire setting, though it might be useful to know that vampires of Skinner Sweet’s line (the ‘American Vampire’ of the title) are able to walk in sunlight and are vulnerable to gold as opposed to silver or wood.
We get ‘Lost Colony’ by Jason Aaron & Declan Shalvey set in 1588 showing an early incursion of vampires into the new world. This moves to ‘Bleeding Kansas’ set in 1856 with Albuquerque taking on the writing chores and Ivo Milazzo turning in some nice art that looks like watercolors, though it could have been done with some other media. Jeff Lemire brings us up to James Bay, Canada in 1877 for ‘Canadian Vampire’ with art by Ray Fawkes. Here we meet Canadian frontiersman Jack Warnhammer and are left with a bit of a mystery that I’d love to see followed up on in future stories.
Becky Cloonan gives us ‘Greed’, a story set in 1924 starring Skinner Sweet and Francesco Francavilla does story/art on ‘The Producers’ set in 1925 Hollywood. We stay in 1925 Hollywood for my absolute favorite story of the collection, ‘ Essence of Life’ written by Gail Simone with art by newcomer Tula Lotay who has previously worked on an issue of Elephantmen and the Thought Bubble Anthology #1 & #2. Lotay is an artist I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future, she does an excellent job on this story, her work looks to me like a blend of Becky Cloonan & Matt Kindt. We move to 1940 New York for ‘Last Night’ by brothers Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon and finish the anthology with ‘Portland, 1940’ by Greg Rucka & JP Leon, a fabulous story wherein some n’er-do-wells learn that it’s maybe not such a good idea to try to shanghai Skinner Sweet.
I don’t normally like to do a review that is basically a reiteration of the table of contents, but in this case, naming the creators really should be enough to get your interest if you’re a fan of quality comics. Most of the stories in this 70 page anthology are 8 pages long, too much discussion of the specifics are just going to spoil them. Suffice to say that we have top notch creators being allowed to play in Snyder/Albuquerque’s sandbox and they turn in some really good stories. I’d love to see Vertigo put one of these anthologies out on an annual basis.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall – firstname.lastname@example.org
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