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American Vampire, created by Scott Snyder, follows a new breed of vampire from the Old West to, well, it’s up to the 70s now. I love it. It goes all over the world, has some fun turns, and people age in real time. They die, guys! More than that, for a 6-year-old series, it’s one of the most consistent books I’ve ever read.
So why don’t I see more buzz about it? When it first came out, there was a lot of heat, talks of TV adaptions. Now, not really anything. Which is a real shame. It’s definitely up there with Saga and that collects accolades like I collect disappointed loved ones.
A TV series would be amazing, it’s almost an anthology series as is. Unlike Preacher or Sandman, there’s no real need to have the obligatory HBO or Netflix request. You could easily mold the story to fit any number of cable channels. Not basic channels though, I’m not a miracle worker.
Pearl, the series lead, is one of the fullest-developed characters in the medium, purely because of how the story unfolds. An immortal vampire, she’s able to live multiple lifetimes as well as living through some of the most harrowing times in human history. She deals with coming into her own in a time difficult for women, loving a mortal husband, becoming a government weapon, living in exile, and being thrust into a position of leadership. All through World War Two, the Cold War, Vietnam, and more.
But her level of character development isn’t unique in the series, and that’s probably its greatest strength. We watch everyone change over the years. One of the standout characters, Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire, goes through a whole lot of change over the years. Originally your typical black hat Old West outlaw, the years begin to wear him into something resembling a hero.
Every character, even side characters, go through some kind of change. Everyone’s a real character. Real characters make everything hit harder. Deaths hurt more, triumphs are sweeter, danger is that much more intense. It’s like skipping around a really, really long novel.
The villains in American Vampire are really effective for two reasons. One, most of the time they’re super relatable. They may be powerful vampires, but they always have human motivations. Greed, power, racism, fear, xenophobia. To dip into a cliché, they show the monster in us. Second, when they’re not relatable, they’re basically gods. Unstoppable monsters beyond human understanding. It should be lame, but the way Snyder always seems to be able to link them to creepy imagery, they’re real effective.
Which is another great point. I think the world of American Vampire is pretty unique for the vampire genre. A genre so over-stuffed it’s a wonder anything stands out anymore. It’s a world filled with monsters, but they’re all just variations of vampire. Werewolf, gargoyle, bat… person? All vampires. They all branch off from each other, have mutations, but all lead back to the same source. Since the story is able to span so much time, we really get to explore every part of it. Every story arc, the world gets a little bigger, a little richer.
The art is amazing. Rafael Albuquerque does an amazing job issue-to-issue, easily switch between grotesque and beautiful. His face work is highly emotive. His poses are always full of energy and life. Still, what I like most is the sheer amount of detail he packs into every issue. I’ve seen him on other books, but I still think he needs to be out there more.
What do you think? Is American Vampire worth the praise? Why do you think it’s not discussed more? Let me know in the comments below.