I got my computer back!!!! Happy October Horrorthon!!!
In every sport or endeavor, we can think of our stars: the paragons. Stephen King is an unquestioned master of horror. In comics, Scott Snyder looks down from that pyramid as well. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Scott Snyder a few times and you would never guess that he was the greatest comic book author in a generation.
I went up to Scott at the Emerald City Comic Con to have him sign my trade paperback. He was surprised because my trade was not rare at all, but I wanted him to know that I loved his art so much that I wanted it signed, regardless of worth. Because of that, he took out time to talk to me even though there was a line of autograph hounds. Stephen King, on the other hand, I have no idea what’s he’s like in real life. I have a hunch that he’s like most people I have known from Maine: DIY, tough, and fair.
American Vampire was a Supergroup: both King and Snyder wrote this book with the beautiful art of Rafael Albuquerque. They took the genre of the Vampire and, much like the theme in the story, they made it evolve. The result was a trio of interconnected revenge stories with wonderfully flawed heroes and anti-heroes. The artists forced you to root even for Skinner Sweet – a man who thinks he’s not only above the law, but beyond it. Skinner Sweet typifies the American Id: dangerous, violent, and oddly fair within his code.
The book opens with two struggling starlets in the 1920s Hollywood: Pearl and Hattie. Pearl is all-in with the art; whereas, Hattie is more of the hack opportunist. They are staying in a cheap apartment complex where a mysterious stranger hangs around. Pearl is invited to Hollywood party where it turns out she is the main course for a host of hungry vampires. Near death, the mysterious stranger finds her dying and he makes her like him: An American Vampire. A vampire, unlike the relics of europe, he can walk in daylight and has few if any weaknesses. When Pearl rises to her new undead life, she goes on a rampage of revenge to destroy those who stole her humanity. Yes, I just got chills too!
The story flashes back to the old west where a lawman, Book, has captured Skinner Sweet, but not for long. He busted out in an awesome train attack by his gang. This is where we learn about the haughty European vampires and how they are arrogant, weak, and in our way. Sweet tells Book that he sent poison to his wife, engendering Book’s revenge story against Sweet. During the train attack, Sweet is turned into a Vampire and when he eventually rises Sweet and Book are sent on a collision course of revenge against the other.
There’s more revenge in this book than a Sicilian novel. It must be burned into my Italian DNA to love these revenge stories, but there’s more to it that my accident of birth. Revenge stories tap into the universal of what makes us human. We’ve all been wronged and we have all wondered what it would be like to mete out own justice and live by our own law. Skinner Sweet is not as much evil as he is part of civilization; he’s the American ID of our rugged individualism. Pearl’s character is part of society, but must seek out her own revenge because as a vampire, she is unable to use society to bring her justice. As the story unfolds, it’s clear that Pearl and Skinner Sweet are the most honest in their quest for revenge because at times Block uses his badge to hide behind his vendetta. In all three stories, the vendettas are so satisfying and pure. This book is rage distilled to its purest form.