American Vampire: Second Cycle #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

Bearing down from the skies in grey whirlwinds a mysterious demon terrorizes the Arizona countryside in the early 1800s. Delivering brutal omens and violence to a wandering tribe the ancient spirit slays in swift wisps going on to haunt American myth and lore for decades to come.

Over 150 years later a mysterious young woman provides refuge for the hunted and researches the country’s vast and blood soaked history, charting the appearance of the paranormal and monstrous throughout time.

One hand steadying a motorcycle and another wielding an automatic weapon the sinister “Sugar-man” plagues the progress of a delivery truck and its couriers. ‘Marbles’ tossed from the passenger side of the cabin explode onto the pavement but ultimately fail to thwart his perpetual existence.

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Returning to a history of violence, blood and sweets are Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque with their second half to the ongoing evolution of the American Vampire. With Second Cycle the series presents a rich and substantially established world that smoothly transitions new readers into the fold and simultaneously satiates old readers. This new volume of the title acts as a tremendously effective advancement of the plot and characters that have inhabited the universe all the while refreshing the environment to instantly hook and welcome aboard prospective followers without feeling left behind. An undeniably addictive taste of mystery, horror, character and action pack these 30 pages leaving you drooling over the prospect of more as quickly as possible.

Scott Snyder (The Wake, Batman, Superman Unchained) is amongst the most exciting talents in comics today, scripting some of the best superhero as well as independent horror and science-fiction comics currently. His ability to weave complex, empathetic and driven character dramas, deeply layered mystery, genuine scares as well as clever speculative fictions and thoroughly entertaining stories have cemented him firmly in the canon of the best storytellers in the medium. With American Vampire: Second Cycle, Snyder’s wide and expansive chronicles of a new strain of vampire running through the veins of America takes another step forward and now begins to ask questions of the missing links and catalysts. The book’s chapters have always felt very balanced with self-contained arcs that add to the overall tapestry while offering an independant tale that is enjoyable regardless of the main mythology running through it. With Second Cycle issue one that very same dynamic is achieved if not even more skillfully this time around. Yet again the writing of Snyder continues to enthrall and captivate with ingenuity, intrigue and in this book’s case, sick, twisted and bloodthirsty monsters.

Rafael Albuquerque (Animal Man, Blue Beetle, The Long Road to Hell) has been an integral factor in the success and the brilliance that is American Vampire since the first issue and only continues to develop positively as a creator and experiment beautifully within the book’s frightening panels. His smooth style transitions scenes in gorgeous montages that, in a few cases this issue, stretch over two pages and tell the entire history of a character from their first appearance to now in astounding fluidity. His character designs this cycle are amazing with the new flower power Pearl Jones, the Easy Rider look that Skinner has adopted in addition to the few glimpses that this issue delivers of the ghostly Gray Trader. Albuquerque only gets better as the series progresses.

This chilling new chapter in American Vampire achieves something many comic series strive for but fail with offering a great jumping on point for new readers that is comprehensible as well as a satisfying movement forward that welcomes back the old readers with wide open arms. Snyder and Albuquerque are in the midst of making a future classic of Vertigo publishing and it’s great to have them back in Second Cycle.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior.

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