AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Published by Vertigo Comics
Release Date: March 19th, 2014
Sometimes you just don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Never has this been truer than with American Vampire. After several years of consistently being one of the best books on the market, it was becoming easy to take the title for granted every month. When Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque decided to take a break from the monthly adventures of Pearl, Skinner, the various members of The Vassals of The Morning Star, and all the other characters we came to know over the course of 34 issues and multiple mini-series, I don’t think anybody realized just how much they would be missed. I know I didn’t. While The Long Road to Hell and American Vampire Anthology one shots were appreciated, they only whet the appetite of fans anticipating the return of the ongoing series. Well, American Vampire is finally back, and I am happy to say that it is every bit as good as you remember.
American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 finds itself in the precarious position of serving as the beginning of the second half of Snyder and Albuquerque’s epic story that started almost exactly four years ago, while also being a first issue that is supposed to be new reader friendly. As a reader from the beginning I may not be the best one to judge, but I feel as if Snyder’s script does as well as humanly possible to balance the two sides of the equation, but whether or not they succeed in making it new reader friendly is debatable. The issue begins with a quick, yet mysterious scene in 1812 before jumping ahead to 1965 for the remainder of the issue. The 4 page scene that kicks off the book is a great traditional opening scene that sets the tone for the entire back half of the run. It is a quick, bloody scene that leaves the readers asking more questions than it answers. Then before you know it the book jumps to 1965 where the rest of the issue is devoted to catching readers up on what Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet have been up to. The choice to jump ahead from the 1950s, at the end of Volume 1, to 1965 here was smart one by the creative team. Not only does the passage of time allow for Snyder to separate the characters from the events of the previous volume to establish the new beginning of this chapter, but it also mirrors the actual hiatus. The world that the creative team established over three years was quite expansive, but Snyder choosing to focus the issue on the main characters of Pearl and Skinner was another smart choice in an issue full of smart choices. Half the fun in the issue is seeing what Pearl and Skinner have been up to, and what trouble they are stirring up. One finds themselves back home using an assumed name, and the other is on the Mexican/American border. They are each doing their own, seemingly unrelated thing, but by the end of the issue it is clear as to what will bring the two back together. Hint: It is something that was hinted at in the previous volume, and promises to be the most dangerous enemy yet.
Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are a hell of a team. It cannot be understated just how well Scott Snyder is able to craft a tight script. In one issue we get caught up on what both Pearl and Skinner are up to, two splash pages that serve to organically show readers what happened to Skinner and Pearl in the previous volume, and then we are introduced on two fronts to what appears to be the big bad of the foreseeable future. All of this while providing ample doses of action, mystery, intrigue, and scares. That is a lot for one issue to balance, but the creative team does so wonderfully. The only problem is that despite the creative team doing its absolute best to be welcoming to new readers, it will vary from person to person on just how successful they were. The two pages meant to be quick recaps are integrated into the script instead of a recap page, but they might not be enough for new readers to grasp three years worth of stories in the manner that they are meant to. On that same note, long time readers may find the shoe in of these pages to be slightly annoying. It may keep the issue from being perfect, but in the grand scheme of things it is a minor annoyance that doesn’t keep the issue from being great.
As well of a job Snyder does to bring balance to the script, it is the art that is ultimately responsible for that balance translating well to the page. Albuquerque’s style and tone has been consistent throughout the years, and without it, American Vampire wouldn’t be the success that it is today. That isn’t meant to be a knock on Snyder’s writing, but it is Albuquerque’s ability to deliver on all fronts that gives Snyder the confidence to throw so many different ideas into a script. You need a bad ass action scene? Albuquerque can draw an awesome motorcycle chase. Oh how about something creepy? That Rafael guy can scare the bejesus out of you with his rendition of a talking decapitated head. Whatever emotion Snyder wants to evoke in the script, Rafael Albuquerque is able to effectively capture it in his art. The result is a roller coaster ride of emotions in every issue, and the trend continues as the book’s “Second Cycle” kicks into gear.
One really gets the sense with American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 that Snyder and Albuquerque are just as excited to be back working on the book as the readers are to be reading it again. Everything a fan of the series can love is present in this return issue. The characters are awesome, the script is tight, the art is beautiful, the mystery and intrigue are high, there’s a lot of action and violence, and plenty of scares. Pearl, Skinner, Scott, and Rafael, it has been awhile. Boy am I glad to have you all back.
The Verdict: 9.5/10