SJ Reads: American Vampire

 

So, as we all know, I love vampires in general, especially when they’re done well. I’ve mentioned American Vampire on here before, but I recently reread/caught up, and this just affirms that more people need to read this series.

american vamp

The concept of vampires through history isn’t a new one, but it’s really interesting how this series just goes for it, as well as picking some interesting moments. Sure, in some cases it goes for the obvious ones (WWII being the easiest choice), but a lot of times it explores stuff I wouldn’t have thought of, like 1920s Hollywood, Boulder Dam in the 30s, various parts of the 1800s, the space battle of the 60s.

Oh yes, there are vampires in space. The thing is, though, that even when you think things are going off the rails and it’s going to completely crash and burn…somehow the next volume pulls it out and makes it amazing again. Things that could be completely corny like a greaser slayer or the mentioned vampires in space really explore parts of characters in ways that I didn’t see coming.

So basically the whole plot is Skinner Sweet is this vampire turned in the 1800s – in this comic, vampires have powers specific to where they’re located and how they’re turned and Skinner is the first “American” vampire, having attributes that are different and stronger than what’s come before. It’s also interesting that instead of exploring other paranormal creatures like werewolves and the like, the mythology makes them a type of vampire that people /assume/ to be man-wolves or whatever. So basically everything paranormal is vampires. Which is gutsy. Sometimes it works better than others, but it does help to tie the universe together. There’s also a parallel plot exploring an organization bent on stopping vampires, so you have the slayer element as well. The downside is it’s sometimes hard to keep the timelines and characters straight, especially in the volume format. Honestly, though, at the end of the day, it’s still a really fascinating series. The series is really good at exploring society – be it segregation, class warfare, immigration, modernization, the works. You do have some jump the sharky moments – there’s an anthology volume that I’m not particularly fond of, the Dracula arc seems a little random, and while I’m fascinated by the current Gray Trader arc, it also kind of seems like cheating to introduce a whole other big bad to make Skinner more heroic.

Because, at the end of the day, yeah, there are a lot of great and interesting characters, but Skinner is the best in this thing, with maybe Pearl as competition. Whereas Pearl’s battle focuses more on the traditional vampire vs what’s left of her humanity, Skinner has always been a self-serving bad dude, from his outlaw days to the current arc. He does do some heroic things, but I would hope that the writers keep to his core nature – brutal, self-serving, side-switching, and inadvertently hilarious. And somehow, you still end up feeling for him.

The art is also just incredible – the variety of vampire art used throughout the series is diverse and insane, as well as all the research that must have gone into planning all the historical details.

Find vol 1 here

Any other vampire fans get into this series? How far have you gotten? What are your thoughts on all the changing arcs? Favorite vampire type?


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