Wednesday, July 28, 2010

American Vampire #5 - A Review

American Vampire #5

Publisher Vertigo

Writer Scott Snyder and Stephen King

Art Rafael Albuquerque

Colors Dave McCaig

Format 32 Pages of Story and Art

Price Point $3.99

This issue is the conclusion of the first story arc by creator Scott Snyder and Stephen King’s origin of Skinner Sweet. Both stories were excellent and this sets up this series to be Vertigo’s next big thing. The potential in this book is amazing and I’m now just waiting for issue #6 to get here.

The first half of the book dealt with Pearl taking her revenge on the Vampires who created her and her friend who betrayed her. It was the fastest fifteen pages of comics I have read in a long time because the story was just that exciting and well paced. Scott has already become a master at marrying words and pictures and if his DCU material is even half of good as American Vampire then DC has a new big name in the making. I see Scott moving up the ranks rather rapidly if all of his work is this strong. I’m hesitant to tag him as the next Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison for DC because Scott is his own person and I think he will be the next Scott Snyder and it will be a good thing.

When you break down his fifteen page story concluding Pearl’s story for now it is an amazing thing. The first page uses the nine panel grid and lays out seven panels as we see Rose and Henry prepare for the attack on the vampires who made Pearl into an American Vampire. We have dialogue from Pearl setting us up for the story to come using a story from her childhood. You flip the page and we have the vampires conversing about their plans and on the adjacent page the doors are swung open by Pearl and Henry as they attack. From there we have limited dialogue, plenty of action and some terrific lines. Now while they are “lines” they come across as something the characters would say as opposed to lines that are clever to just be clever. We wrap up that fight and cut to Pearl taking her revenge on Hattie. Again another great fight scene between the two girl friends who are now both vampires. We then get a quiet three page ending that show Pearl and Henry with a happy ending for now and a great scene with Skinner Sweet setting us up for stories to come where I’m sure Pearl will be called upon by Skinner in some future time. It was truly a mini-masterpiece in comic books. It gave us a satisfying conclusion to the first arc, established a great character in Pearl and laid the groundwork for the future. In addition the story had humanity (I know odd with vampires), romance, all out action fight scenes with appropriate amount of blood (it is a vampire story) and was just very well told.

Skinner Sweet’s half of the book was also excellent. I have always liked Pearl’s story better, but this issue was King’s best chapter and made me enjoy the Skinner story almost as much as the Pearl story. One quick side note, I have loved and read many Stephen King’s books and have a desire to read more, for him to actually put his name out there and write a comic for the first time like this was pretty darn amazing. The man does not need to do this and he certainly did not have to put himself out there like that. Bravo, Mr. King, bravo, for showing us that you can always still try and branch out and try new things no matter how successful you already are in one area.

I’m not sure how much of Skinner’s story is from Scott and how much is from Mr. King, but I have to say that the end story was excellent. We got to see how Skinner infected his long time enemy James Book and how Skinner escaped the collapsed mine. We get to see Skinner tell the old vampire group to shove it and watch as a young girl Abi gets Book to leave her with a child. The last page was great as we see an older Abi with her young daughter watching Skinner and she is plotting her revenge for what he did to James Book. This chapter was extremely well done and I thought the flow of the story was the best it had been. It appears to me that Mr. King has already learned what he needs to do as a comic writer and I think he has a chance to hit the big time.

Finally Rafael Albuquerque is killing with his art on this book. Every issue gets better and better. His expressions, camera angles, the turn of a person’s lip, the layouts, page design, panel design, the weight to his characters it all gets better and better. Rafael is someone whose artwork just continues to grow. I love watching an artist that is coming into his own and grow before your eyes. When he was announced as the artist for this book I never thought he would work out, but he has proven me to be 100% wrong and now I can’t imagine him doing super hero work again. Obviously he can do either, but wow he is just impressive on this book. I’d be remiss to not mention Dave McCaig’s color work. It is an area where I have to intuit someone’s ability because I know little about how the job is done, but I know good when I see it. His work is excellent in this book and is used to great effect in many segments of the story telling. His enhancement of the art makes Rafael look that much better.

Overall Grade A+ - American Vampire is a thing of beauty and joy to behold.

Now I would like to propose that DC use this series to launch a digital version of the collected edition. With Stephen King’s name attached to it, the book will garner more exposure, but selling it as a halfway done project or by issue will not garner the regular reading public’s attention. Take full use of digital capabilities. First the book can be read straight as Pearl’s story and then Skinner’s story, two stories for one. Then have the option of showing the script side by side with the page. Add in some character sketches and preliminary work by Rafael. Add the option for someone to look at the book in black and white with or without captions. Finally do interviews with the creators and have the interviews as back material. Have an option where the interviews can be listened to so we can hear the creators talk about the book. Finally offer the commentary track where Scott or Steve could comment as the pages as turned. Not utilizing the full capabilities of digital and just selling the same product as on the stand for iPads or whatever is missing the boat. The digital world needs to garner a new audience and special books and projects deserve putting it all out there. Charge close to the same price as the collected edition or better yet keep it at half price, but $15 a pop for this type of digital product could sell big time and generate a whole new audience for the medium we all love.

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