Written by Scott Snyder, with Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, and more
Art by Rafael Albuquerue, with Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Ray Fawkes, and more
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Release Date: March 26, 2014

American-Vampire-vol-6American Vampire reaches its final volume of material before this month’s much-lauded Second Cycle relaunch, and includes two oversized specials: The Long Road to Hell, by original creators Snyder and Albuquerque, and the American Vampire Anthology, featuring a host of talent from across the comic industry. This edition touches very little on story mainstays Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones, and breaks the pattern of the series moving strictly in time. It is instead designed to flesh out the world in which the Abominus Americana have evolved, beginning with a confrontation between vampire hunter Travis Kidd and a set of brand new American Vampires… and a strange little boy.

Snyder co-plots this initial story with series artist Rafael Albuquerque to somewhat bittersweet ends, as we get a real chance to relate emotionally to the Bonnie and Clyde-type couple, Billy Bob and Jolene, as they do everything in their power not to succumb to their baser instincts as the infection takes hold. It’s a surprising turn, really, as we come to identify with these grifters rather quickly, but on the other hand, what character in American Vampire — warts and all — hasn’t captured our hearts, even a little? Jasper, the young, very odd little boy who attaches himself to the couple, is the true curiosity of the opening story, bringing that very slight, unnerving quality that every great horror story has. The real terror in American Vampire is never the threat of attack. It’s always the unseen and off-kilter, that nagging feeling when everyone in a room is smiling ear-to-ear and you can’t figure out exactly why.

american_vampire_-_the_long_road_to_hell_001-035Of course, Albuquerque’s art shines in the way it does throughout the series’ previous volumes, giving characters something of a rough quality without taking them too far into caricature. His eyes, in particular — whether bright red with blood rush or doe-ish with tears welling — are so expressive, that they jump right off the page, particularly in the darkest of scenarios. Every page has such movement to it, and you can tell the artist really thinks about the details of the scene. Hair is blown back when the characters are driving in a convertible. Rain continues to drip off of the character’s faces, even when they’ve come inside from the storm. The sum result is a story that feels very personal, energetic, and still darkly moody.

American+Vampire+Anthology+#1+page+60Albuquerque is joined by a mélange of talented artists for the second half of the volume, as each vignette of times past in the American Vampire mythology get rolled out across the page. Despite the differences among them, the artists actually do a fair job of adapting to the title palette, both in color and drawing style. By no means is any penciller aping the work of Albuquerque, but you can tell they each have a feel for the overriding atmosphere in the book. Notable standouts include Francesco Francavilla’s dark look at a particular coven of Hollywood producers, Tula Lotay’s super-creepy bold style on Gail Simone’s look at the origin of series regular Hattie Hargrove, and Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes’ collaboration on an infestation of vampires… where else?… in rural Canada.

A well combined collection of stories outside the main run of the title, American Vampire Volume 6 is a fun interlude between seasons, and a whole lot of backstory to add to the mix for the series.  Snyder and Albuquerque’s vision shines through even the pages they didn’t write, and that’s a pretty strong statement for the world that they’ve worked so hard to build.

The Verdict: 9.0/10



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