This is the story of the first Vampire created in America, back in the 19th century, and his subsequent unlife through the following decades.
It is an unusual format in that it contains two stories. One is the titular vampire’s origin story in 1880 and the other is that of his “offspring” in 1925. The two never mix and each issue is divided squarely down the middle with half each. Each is written by a different writer (with Snyder taking overall control) but drawn by the same artist.
This interesting technique pays off. You get twice as much narrative, drama and excitement, plus the joy of piecing the story together as you see places and people decades apart. The two books in one are carefully structured so that you could read them separately and neither feels weaker or dependant on the other.
It is very much a slow burn, eschewing the flashy hooks or rapid pacing of modern comics, but you can feel there is a novelist at the helm. Once the time is right it shifts into high gear and the solid foundations and characterisation catapult you into frenetic action. There are some great twists and cliff-hangers and plenty to keep you interested.
With vampire fiction there are all sorts of questions about sunlight, mirrors and so on. There are classic European vampires with all the familiar traits but Snyder’s setup of the first of a new breed of American vampires allows him to bring his own rules without stepping on any toes.
The art is good and uses a murky watercolour-wash feel for the older story and cleaner, crisper colouring for the 1920’s. The layout is traditional straight edged panels but each page has a different composition with less or more art depending on the story needs. The words never dominate the page and there are plenty of mute panels to break things up and show you what you need to know.
This definitely has the feel of a saga. This promises to be an epic, like the Godfather, sprawling down through the generations; each new volume visiting a different period with new characters and fresh stories to tell.
There is a forward, afterword, full cover line-up, concept art and script pages. It is even printed on sustainable paper too. Definitely a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: American Vampire: Volume Two – Scott Snyder