Review: AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #6

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AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SECOND CYCLE #6
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Release Date: February 4, 2015

On the run from the Gray Trader, Pearl, Skinner, and Poole arrive at an abandoned VMS black station in Central Florida. Only problem is… it isn’t abandoned. And the secrets that come out in the process change everything they know about their enemy, and an armageddon they need to prevent. It’s the origin of the Gray Trader, and the crew’s new mission is to stop him — permanently.

Just when you think there’s nothing new to say with the vampire genre, a book comes along and turns it all on its head. The decades long saga that is American Vampire has reached the 1960s, and like the era it’s portraying, the book has suddenly become very, very tense. It’s not enough to have “good” vampires going after the bad guys. Now they have to stop world annihilation.

No biggie.

I half kid, because the ease with which Snyder incorporates this heaviness and historical reference is so well done, you never get pulled out of the book in the process. Is it the well-developed, devil-may-care attitude Skinner Sweet exudes, or Pearl Jones’ deep confidence and grace? Is it that, naturally, vampires wouldn’t feel the encroachment of this terrible potential fate as deeply as a mortal would? The writer never forgets exactly who he’s dealing with, and so, no matter what the dilemma, we’re getting it squarely explained through our protagonists’ eyes. And these vampires? They don’t scare easily.

With the origin of the Gray Trader revealed, I finally feel like the break into renumbering with Second Cycle makes sense. The stakes are wholly different this time around, and for what it’s worth, feels much more relatable as it nears a history much more near and dear to a large demographic of the readership. I may not have been alive for Kennedy’s assassination or the space race, but the memory of them have passed, as if through DNA, from my parents — emblazoned on my brain with just enough distance to make it seem charming.

Albuquerque’s pencils and inks once again are a perfect fit for the material he and Snyder created, making full use of his quirky figure style and applying it to the physicality of the vampire. The sequence here when the team first arrives at the black station and encounters its “security system” is particularly fun, and its monsters dynamic and compelling in their own rights. And then you add in a vampiric elephant and frankly, all bets are off.

The wash technique Albuquerque uses, combined with McCaig’s beautifully subtle colour palette, keeps the character of the title consistent, despite the great shifts in years. 1965 doesn’t necessarily feel more modern than 1885, and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing their work detailing the rigors of space in the same way. As Florida here has a quality of life that makes it feel grimy and sun-baked, I’m eager to see this same aesthetic applied to the crispness of outer space and the technology meant to get them there. It’s definitely going to be a sight to behold.

A tough issue to give full praise to without spoiling its contents, American Vampire: Second Cycle #6 is one of the best opening chapters to date for a storyline, and promises to take these characters to places readers are sure to enjoy. Snyder and Albuquerque have a classic run happening here, and it’s nice to see some revelations released so early on in its second half. The next issue can’t come soon enough.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

 

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