“AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY” (Comic Review)
Whether they’re seducing sweet, innocent girls or slaughtering entire towns in a blood-fueled rage, there is a certain mystique that surrounds vampires, inspiring centuries of stories, legends, and films DC/Vertigo’s AMERICAN VAMPIRE fits perfectly into the well-established mythos as it follows the lives of a brand new strain of vampires who’ve broken away from their European ancestors and have instead grown anew in the wilds of the American West. Beautifully written by DC’s hot rising star Scott Snyder and with an Eisner Award under its belt, it’s no surprise that other creative talents are biting at the chance to work on it. Enter AMERICAN VAMPIRE Anthology, a compilation of some of the industry’s best and brightest adding their own unique twists on the series while helping to fatten up the main characters’ back stories.
ANTHOLOGY tends to focus on the previously un-recorded adventures of the lead character, Skinner Sweet and even opens up with him set on fire at a diner as he monologues about the history of “me and mine.” The issue only picks up steam from there, not only focusing on Sweet, but on tales of other American vampires too sordid to tell. Written in a chronologically, it starts with a terrorized tribe of American Indians in 1585 and continues well into an attempted shanghai in 1940s Portland. In between, it’s splattered with macabre shorts of deep woods blood hunting, dark seductions, and deadly greed all centering around the fragile and often brutal relationship between humans and vampires. The anthology also pays particular attention to the golden age of Hollywood, dancing around the edges of the main series and helps build a wider vision of the original’s decadence and flash-fire violence.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY stays true to the original concept while giving just enough wiggle room for creativity, creating an encompassing history of the characters and their lore. The stories themselves read like whispered rumors, something properly told in hushed tones at a secret society or in the locked away dust of a forgotten tome. Similar to new-world folklore, they throw the reader back into a place where being fool-hardy and a bit naïve, be it in the pallid forests of early colonies or back-alleys of glitzy cities, is the only way to survive the darkness. Despite being fiction, the collection, like the original series, manages to create an almost alternate version of what we know of North America’s past. It touches upon the brutality of the Southwest, with its dreams of the Gold Rush and the silver screen, and adds a twist of vampire morbidity, perhaps playing off the real life lusts of the promises from the last bit of true American land.
The list of contributors to the anthology, which include some of the biggest names in DC’s repertoire, is as exciting as the work itself. Writers such as Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, and Greg Rucka add their own unique stamp to the series, building on Snyder’s already engrossing story. Each short is a stand-out on its own, but looked at cohesively creates a must-read sampling of talent that entices further exploring into the individual authors. Not to be outdone, the art also displays the diverse artistic pool available to DC Comics disposal. The soft toned watercolors of Ivo Milazzo and Ray Fawkes play wonderfully with some of the pioneer-based stories, while the smooth and expressive movement of Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay are perfect for tales of Hollywood debauchery. Whether you’re a new reader or an old fan of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, this anthology is a perfect addition to any horror hound’s ghoulish collection.