Thursday, March 15, 2012

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest

Lee keeps poaching my posts, so who knows when this will show up on the blog. It may be after my string of Library posts or it may be in the midst of them. Dude's messin' with my flow. Heh. Like my posts are that organized.

Anyway, it's recently (at the time of this writing) completed mini-series time. I'll start with the good one, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. Scott Snyder is the creator and writer of American Vampire, the ongoing series, and he writes this story, too. Sean Murphy handles the art.

While the ongoing series largely chronicles Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones, this series follows Felicia Book and Cash McCoogan. Both characters first appeared in the main title, and their history there is relevant to the story here. However, Snyder lets a new reader in on that history in the course of this series so that it's not necessary to have read the ongoing series to understand and enjoy this mini.

Felicia Book is the daughter of a vampire. She's not a vampire but she has some of their abilities, including the handy ability to sense one when it's near her. Of course, they can sense her, too, which is a bit of a detriment at times. She's primarily out to get Skinner Sweet, who turned her father into a vampire.

Cash McCoogan has a slightly different problem related to vampires. Skinner Sweet injected his blood into Cash's wife's abdomen when she was near full term to delivering their son, Gus. This resulted in Gus being a full on vampire. Not the kind like Skinner and Pearl who can hid out amongst humans, either. Gus looks more like a gargoyle. A further element in all this is that Felicia feels guilty about Gus being made a vampire because she might have been able to stop Skinner if she had recognized that was what he was going to do with the syringe containing his blood.

With that status quo we enter the world of the Vassals of the Morning Star, a group dedicated to the hunting and killing of vampires, of which Felicia is a star agent. Headquartered below the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, they send agents around the world in the hunt for vampires, and, of course, have made appearances in the ongoing series. Cash McCoogan is a new member of the Vassals. He's not only helping to track down and kill vampires, he's looking for a cure for his son.

Felicia signs on to a mission with Cash. A botanist named Pavel says he's discovered a cure. He's at a castle in Romania, held captive by Nazis. Did I forget to mention this is taking place in March 1941? I think I did.

The mission is for Felicia and Cash to fly to the castle under the guise of being American Nazi sympathizers. They're to check out what the Nazis are investigating for possible investment of their fictitious considerable funds.

The mission goes badly from the beginning. The Nazis don't accept their transmission code for landing and start shooting at their plane, decapitating their pilot. Cash manages to make a crash landing, followed by some excellent bluffing that convinces the Nazi commondant that they're the sympathizers they claim to be. Unfortunately, When it's time for Dr Pavel to present the research he's ostensibly performing for the Nazis, it's revealed that the Nazis are allied with Carpathian vampires. These are the same sort of vampires whose bite somehow turned Skinner Sweet into the first known American vampire.

Seems the Nazis and the Carpathians have a similar agenda. Each believes he's the superior race within his species and wants to wipe out the lesser races. To that end, Dr Pavel is creating a weapon that harnesses light. It's tested on various other species of vampire, including one that looks much like Gus, with the effect of turning each to dust.

Dr Pavel's real mission, though, doesn't have to do with vampire race wars or curing vampirism, though he's worked on both. What he's really trying to do is save ancient vampires races. In 1915 he discovered that a large Egyptian statue at a British museum was actually a dormant vampire. Before he could do anything with that knowledge, it was dismembered and shipped away. He's spent the years since hunting for more of the ancients to try to revive them, usually arriving after someone has destroyed them. He doesn't think they're the malicious sorts that the modern vampires, like the Carpathains, are.

Turns out there are three of the ancients below the castle. He's been slipping down there and working on waking them. By the time he shows Cash and Felicia, they're nearly awake. Of course, that's when it all hits the fan, too. One of the ancients is a giant. Another is a werewolf looking creature, while the third resembles Man-Bat. The battle royale between them and the Carpathian vampires is as large and violent as is to be expected.

There's great flair in this story. Cash and Felicia are such interesting characters, Snyder could tell just about any story with them. This spy mission only makes it all the more interesting. From dialog to motivation, Snyder has an excellent story. It's finish is touching on many levels. I'm hoping for a lot more stories involving the Vassals, too. There's a lot of well to draw upon outside the stories involving Pearl and Skinner.

My only question in all of this is, what's up with that pistol Cash is sporting in the cover of the 5th issue? Look at the size of that thing. How's he supposed to get it out of the holster without knocking himself unconscious, let alone operate such a thing? What I'm saying is the proportion is all wrong. Strangely, that's the second time a cover has featured a strangely large pistol in my recent readings. Grandville, Mon Amour had the same problem. Weird.

No comments:

Post a Comment