(click to embiggen)
Starting last week with issue #13, Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are taking their tales of Skinner Sweet, Pearl Jones and her hubby Henry Preston in to the forties, with a story set during World War II. If you haven't been reading the series, first of all: It's pretty much the only thing we talk about on the podcast other than Wonder Woman, why the heck aren't you listening to us? Second of all: It's worth it to start now. Go now. We'll wait. Here's a handy locator.
This issue marks the one year anniversary of the start of the title, which set a high bar by telling the story of the first ever "American" style vampire (who is actually powered by sunlight,) and the second ever "American" vampire, concurrently. And one story was written by Stephen King. And that wasn't even the best of the two.
So, If you're the sort of person that needs to start from the beginning, definitely start with the hardcover trade. If you're more daring and want to jump in with both feet, #13 is the place to start. There's even a two page mini-recap in the front that catches you up with the basics. It's fun to read even for those of us that have been following along the whole time.
What's really going to be great about this storyline is that it takes place in the Pacific Theater of the war. Other than the obvious (The Pacific; Flags of Our Fathers,) there really isn't a lot of creative fiction set in that particular part of the war. Everyone just wants to talk about Nazis. Don't worry, though, there will definitely be Nazi Vampires at some point -- they'll just be in the five issue spinoff miniseries (illustrated by Sean Murphy) called "Survival of the Fittest," which starts in June.
But back to the main series for a moment: We don't really want to spoil you on this comic if you're not reading it. We also don't want to overhype you on it with our "IT FUCKING ROCKS!" generalities. While it does indeed rock your ass, issue #13 does not have any beheadings or giant fangs or razor claws. It's more of a setup, though that doesn't make it any less engaging.
We haven't actually seen much of the relationship development between Pearl and her husband Henry, so far (what with location and time periods jumping around a lot from story arc to story arc) it's all happened "off-screen." What's amazing in this issue is you get a lot of context for just how deeply they care for one another, and the strong bond that is between them, without having to be told about it before this.
According to Laura, the last page is "very creepy." We won't ruin it by posting a scan, but it does involve the first appearance of the big baddie, Skinner Sweet, in the new storyline. A lot of new characters are introduced here, though, including John Tickman, Calvin Poole, Samuel Lants, and Vicar Jan Miro, who are going to comprise an elite vampire hunting group disguised as an Army Signal Corps, with Henry falling in with them. Laura says they "seem fun." Also that "the Romanian guy [Jan Miro] kind of looks like Mignola's Rasputin."
If you can't tell from these scans we're including, the style of art on this book is unlike any other. Not just the inks, but the color wash sets it apart. It's a very moody sort of watercolor finish, which over the course of the series has evolved and changed tone during different time periods and locales. When the story was in California, everything seemed brighter and cleaner, even though the technique of coloring the page hadn't changed. With this World War II arc, the art feels heavier, the blacks blacker, but again: it all keeps the same aesthetic. Rafael Albuquerque has done an amazing job of shifting from the more familiar comic-book style (he previously drew for Blue Beetle and Superman/Batman) to develop something beautiful and timeless, which really works for a story about immortal beings. Not only that, but when there have been fill-in artists, they've been able to re-create his characters in the same way fairly seamlessly.
We really liked this two page spread.
And now, notes from the Vertigo panel at C2E2:
The "Survival of the Fittest" mini-series will introduce an all new vampire species. The story also involves the Vegas vampires from the "Devil in the Sand" storyline, plus Felicia Book and Cash McCogan. They're looking for a mythical "vampire cure" in Romania. The variant covers are by Cliff Chiang. Sean Murphy asked if he could draw Nazi vampires, and Scott Snyder said "Oh sure, LOTS," so Sean Murphy signed on without needing to see the scripts first.
All the covers for the WWII storyline in the main American Vampire title will build one giant poster.
They wanted to send the pitch of American Vampire to Stephen King just to get a pull quote for it, but he instead asked to do an issue. They were going to just have him write a three page backup story about Skinner Sweet to put in the first issue, but being that he's Stephen King, he just kept writing and writing and writing. King would also send them silly emails about making Skinner in to a mist, or a man-bat, just to screw with them.