Issue 28 of the hit American Vampire series is the start of a new story arc that reunites our two leading American Vampires and promises to mean big things for the future of the series. It’s the 1950s, and Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet have some vampires who need killing.
I really do love this series. It deserves greater acclaim outside of just comic book literature. American Vampire deserves a prominent spot in the history of vampire fiction, but it gets overshadowed by, frankly, lesser deserving works like Twilight and True Blood. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have really hit on something unique and exciting here with the concept of varying breeds of vampire and the emergence of a distinctly American one. Come on. That is so much better than vampires who sparkle or generically sexy vampires. It brings something new to the table. If this series never gets developed as a tv series of some kind, vampire audiences who don’t read comics will be getting seriously cheated.
The series is known for hopping through periods of U.S. history, but Snyder seems to have decided that he would like to stay in the ‘50s for a little while longer. It is the era of McCarthyism and Communists, which is exactly the reason Snyder wants to tell this story at this point in history. The Vassals of the Morning Star believe high profile members of the Hollywood community are vampire sympathizers, going so far as to harbor vampires in their homes and other properties. These vampires may not only be the ones responsible for the attack on Pearl’s husband Henry but may be the same community of vampires who were responsible for ending her life as a human decades ago. So it is that she and Skinner Sweet agree to work together for the Vassals to investigate.
The interesting irony here is that the Vassals are employing vampires to go after vampire sympathizers. I really hope the story goes there, because if this is a reflection on the era, doesn’t this position the Vassals as McCarthy? I will be very surprised if this situation ends up being as black and white as this issue sets it up to be. How do you avoid pointing out the hypocrisy of the Vassals dealing with vampire sympathizers using two agents who are vampires that the Vassals are essentially harboring?
I will be extremely disappointed if this story arc doesn’t tackle this, and that is partly because I seriously need some explanation for the Vassals relationship with the American Vampires. Back in the day, it made sense that the vampire organization had a loose arrangement with Skinner Sweet. They didn’t know how to kill an American Vampire yet. That time has long passed, but if anything, the Vassals are even friendlier with American Vampires now. Why is that? Why did they seemingly save Skinner’s life? Why did they allow Calvin Poole to remain a member after he turned? Why are they so willing to help Pearl? Obviously, American Vampires are useful allies, but they are still vampires.
Another thing I need this story arc to explain, which I feel more confident that it will, is the presence of Skinner, who was apparently killed by Pearl with a gold dagger in a previous story. Readers already knew he was still alive, but we are still waiting for the explanation of how that could be. Did the Vassals save him or resurrect him? How? And again, why? Pearl clearly wants these answers too, so I’m sure the story will give them to us. I do have some concerns about how good these answers will be, though. I think Snyder may be risking a jumping the shark moment for this book if it’s not a good one. Given Snyder’s track record, I’m not too concerned.
I guess what I’m saying is that this issue is a lot of setup for things to come. It really doesn’t give a lot of new meat for readers to chew on. Readers already knew that Skinner Sweet was alive and in the employ of the Vassals. We also knew that Henry had been brutally attacked and that Calvin did turn into a vampire but continues to work with the Vassals. There is not a lot of new material or development here that most readers don't already know coming into it. That's not a terrible thing, but it does make this a relatively light read.
Even light, this is still a good read thanks to the characters involved. I really appreciate what Snyder has done with Pearl and Henry. It’s a vampire/human romance that is honestly just rather unapologetically pure. It hasn’t been ridiculously dramatic with artificial obstacles put in their path. Due to the decades this series has passed through, we’ve seen Pearl and Henry live out a long and happy marriage. It’s the apparent strength of their marriage and love that makes this set up work so well now that Henry is on his death bed and Pearl has to work with Skinner to get revenge.
I don’t know if this new story arc, the Blacklist, will be my new favorite American Vampire story arc, but this opening issue gives me every indication that will be an interesting new chapter of the series’ story. Just the idea of vampire hunting running parallel to McCarthyism alone would do it for me, but this is also the story that reunites Pearl and Skinner after the latter was apparently killed by the former. With as much going on as this story arc seems to have, I wouldn’t bet against the Blacklist turning out to be one of American Vampire’s better chapters.