Let’s face it, the vampire is no longer feared. What once was an evil, blood-sucking demon from hell, has deteriorated into a brooding, sensitive pretty-boy who pines for romance and has renounced drinking the blood of humans. Dracula would be ashamed to call himself a vampire in today’s Twilight age.
Fortunately for the pale Transylvanian, the graphic novel American Vampire not only restores a bit of much-needed attitude and maliciousness to the vampire breed, but also adds a refreshing twist.
Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, the plot of American Vampire follows the 19th century outlaw Skinner Sweet, and aspiring 1920’s actress Pearl Jones. Sweet is a ruthless, evil man, who rides with his posse across the American West robbing and killing whomever he wishes. Sweet eventually has a run-in with a group of Pinkertons, and during the ensuing struggle, is transformed into a vampire.
But Sweet is a very different kind of bloodsucker. He is the first vampire conceived on American soil, and unlike his European counterparts (more traditional Anne Rice vampires), he is actually powered by the sun. Thus from the origins of a spiteful bandit is born the new breed of American Vampires.
In the 1920’s, Sweet meets the innocent Pearl Jones in Los Angeles, where she is desperately trying to become the next big star. Unfortunately for her, Pearl falls victim to “Old World” vampire blood lust, and nearly dies. Sweet however, bestows upon her a gift – his blood. With it, she joins the new breed of vampires, and seeks her vengeance.
The concept of the American vampire is a wonderful thing; they are part outlaw and part movie star, they passionately despise their bourgeois brethren, they are self-destructive and extremely impulsive, and above all, they relish daylight! In short, they are everything that vampires are often shown not to be in popular culture.
The writing is top notch, as both characters are nicely developed. However, Stephen King’s writing gets to the point, while Snyder’s storyline tends to meander as he explores Los Angeles in the 1920’s. Even though this marks the first time that Stephen King has ever written a narrative for a graphic novel, his storyline far outshines Snyder’s. I found myself wanting to know what Sweet was doing next, who he was going to kill, and if he could ever be stopped. I grew attached to his character; yet, at the same time, I loathed him for his actions. Pearl unfortunately, felt like an entertaining side note on my journey of exploring the world of Skinner Sweet.
The illustrations thankfully match the high level of writing in American Vampire. It is wonderful to see such a diverse setting come to life with such vibrancy. The colors and images are beautiful, and it makes looking at severed heads and disemboweled bodies an enjoyable experience.
The story ends rather quickly, but the journey is far from over. Both characters are left with extremely open endings, leaving the story to progress in whatever direction the writers choose. Overall, this vampire graphic novel makes me proud to be an American.