12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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AMERICAN VAMPIRE VOL. 4 isn't the best in the series, but it gives fans plenty of meaty material to sink their teeth into (terrible pun completely intended). This volume of American Vampire is divided into two portions. The first takes place in the 1800s during the Indian Wars, and the second portion takes place during the 1950s. It's a Skinner Sweet-heavy volume, which is great, because Skinner is such a fun character (and by fun, I mean evil and terrible. But the worst villains make the best characters). Pearl barely makes an appearance, which is a fault in my opinion, but that speaks to the quality of Snyder's and Albuquerque's work-I get upset because they have not given me enough awesomeness.
The first story takes place before Skinner was turned into a vampire. He's in the US Army, fighting the Indian Wars, along side his best friend, James Book. This portion gives readers some great backstory on Skinner and how he has always been a monster of one sort or another, even as a boy. It also hints at other types of vampires running around the American West.
The second portion has two protagonists. The first is Travis Kidd: teenager, greaser, vampire hunter. Another badass in a world that seems to be lousy with them, Travis is obsessed with killing vampires because they killed his family. But Travis has a sense of style. He has to do it his own way, outside of the Vassals of the Morning Star, as much as they would love to have him as a new recruit. He's a smart, vicious, and capable guy. I hope this isn't the last time we see him. Oh, and Travis's story offers readers just a hint about the big things that happened between the Vassals and Skinner after Volume 3. I hope we get to learn more about that.
The second protagonist is Calvin Poole, last seen as part of the secret group the Vassals sent to the Pacific during WW2 (i.e., Volume 3). While investigating rumors of new vampires, he was infected with Pearl's vampiric blood. 10 years later, he's now a vampire, but working for the Vassals, still searching for new strains of vampires, while also learning what it means to sacrifice everything to be a member of the Vassals. But what's great about the one-two punch that is the stories of Kidd and Poole is that people-just everyday, non-Vassal people-are fighting back against the vampires. They are learning, adapting, and maybe even scoring a win here and there.
Like I said earlier, this wasn't my favorite volume in the American Vampire series, but that's really because the other volumes set such a high bar. I wasn't as engaged by the plots as I was in earlier American Vampire volumes. They were good, but not great. And even as I write that, I feel like I'm splitting hairs. Kidd's story was the best in this volume, and there was a big reveal and some hints at great things to come. I just wish a couple of those big moments could have happened in Volume 4.
That being said, I love Snyder's writing as well as Albuquerque's and Bernet's artwork. I'll be a fan of their across all their projects. I can't wait to see what they do next, in the American Vampire series and beyond.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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AMERICAN VAMPIRE gives us something rarely seen in comics since the days of the old Wolfman/Colan TOMB OF DRACULA comics: Really scary vampires. I know that Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith really did some nice work with 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, but despite all the tie-ins and films and so on in regards to that title, it was really a one-off. AMERICAN VAMPIRE, created by Scott "The Best Writer DC Has Had In Years" Snyder, Stephen King (yes, THAT Stephen King), and artist Rafael Albuquerque have introduced a vampire tale for the times. It's a tale that spans centuries, but it's a uniquely American take on what essentially is a mythology for the entire world at this point. And Snyder keeps taking us to new times and new characters, but never losing sight of the mission of this comic: creating a new mythology that branches out on the old.
The first half of this trade is, sadly, not terribly good. While having some really nice art by Jordi Bernet, "The Beast in the Cave" is something of a letdown, where we get a pre-vamped Skinner Sweet and his once-upon-a-time best friend James Book and their duty as soldiers and their battle against Indians. The tale just never really picks up a lot of steam and kind of plods along with a more anecdotal quality to it that seems forced. Basically, a little too much of Snyder's English degree shows through here.
Fortunately, this trade also introduces us to the coolest member of the VMS to ever hit the streets in "Death Race". Set in the early 1950's and wearing the traditional garb of the "greaser", Travis Kidd seems to be as much of the problem as he is the solution. He's THE rebel. When killing vampires, he wears false fangs. He's totally anti-authoritarian. He's every bit as dangerous as the vampires he's hunting and his superiors at The Vassals of The Morning Star know it. But the race referred to in the title of this arc is indeed a deadly race as a long-thought-dead villain returns as two vehicles go racing through the southern California deserts as the villain has Travis' girl in the trunk.
"Death Race" is something of a small miracle, because it clearly deals with a time and a culture that Snyder is very much in love with, and it shows with vivid detail. Via Kidd's internal monologue, we get something of his own personal journey as well as details about the archetypal "juvenile delinquent" that pervaded the youth culture during the 50's. But Kidd is a rebel WITH a cause, as we find out in his own tale. As a character, he breathes new life into a comic that is never stale, and being able to surprise and stun readers is something that Snyder effortlessly pulls off in this arc and leaving them hungry for much more. And as per usual, Albuquerque's art is just delicious icing on an already delicious cake. His renderings of vampires are very reminiscent of Gene Colan's work, working to make them hideous grotesqueries rather than your Lugosis or your Pattinsons.
Vol 4 of AMERICAN VAMPIRE may not be the best volume of this comic you'll ever get, but it is certainly contains one of its best arcs and freshest characters.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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Great collection by a great team. One of my favorite arcs in the series other than the most recent. Loved the extra little notes and drawing at the back as well.
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Format: Kindle Edition
My library finally got in the next several volumes of American Vampire, among other things! So that’s awesome, and has the side-effect of placing a large stack of graphic novels next to my bed for the immediate future. Since this is a series, this review will unavoidably offer some spoilers for previous volumes (Volume I/Volume II/Volume III). You’ve been warned….
This volume contains three different stories from the world of American Vampire. First off, we have The Beast In The Cave, which shines a light on the relationship between Skinner Sweet and Jim Book before the one became an outlaw and the other became a lawman, starting with their childhood as near-brothers and continuing into their actions in the Indian Wars. Turns out, Skinner Sweet wasn’t the first vampire forged in the New World. That honor goes to Mimiteh, the young native girl who played Sacajawea to an expedition led by a pair of vampires. The experience proved…transformative. Now rogue Apache leader Hole In The Sky plans to unleash Mimeteh and her fury on the Cavalry forces hunting him. If she cooperates, that is…. On the whole, this was good stuff. It was good to see some more of the backstory between Book and Sweet before their eventual parting of the ways, and Jordi Bernet’s artwork was a good match to the general feel established by Rafael Albuquerque–enough so that I didn’t realize it wasn’t him doing the work on this particular story. You could, however, argue that Mimiteh and her story somewhat undercuts the significance of the events in the first volume and steals the thunder from Sweet. Oh well, moving on.
Returning to the forward-moving portion of the story, i.e. 1954, we meet young vampire hunter Travis Kidd in Death Race. Kidd is on the hunt, taking down vampires wherever he can find them, nest by nest, always looking towards the day he finds himself face to face with the man he holds responsible for the death of his family: Skinner Sweet. Throw a pretty girl and the Vassals Of The Morningstar into the mix, and things are about to heat up…. This story was decent, if a little disjointed due to all the flashbacks. I like the character of Travis Kidd, and hope he shows up again in future volumes. I could have done with a little more explanation of how Sweet survived his apparent demise in 1945, but I suspect that may be a story saved for a future flashback session while Albuquerque catches up on his penciling.
Rounding out the volume, we have an adventure with Calvin Poole in The Nocturnes. You may remember Poole from Volume III, he was the young African-American Marine that went in with the Vassals Of The Morningstar to clean up the vamps on Taipan. When we saw him last, he was lying in an army hospital as a surgeon dug the fragments of a glass vial out of his chest. A glass vial which Pearl Jones had sent with her husband Henry in case of emergency. A vial that contained just enough of her blood to turn a man into a vampire….Now Poole works as a taxonomist for the Vassals, identifying what species they’re dealing with in a given situation. Today, however, Poole is taking a day off to go see his brother play a gig in a sleepy little Alabama town. Turns out, however, that Alabama is generally not a healthy place for a black man in 1954. And this particular town? It’s worse than usual. A decent story focused on an interesting side character, marred slightly by the artwork in my humble opinion. The first half of the two-part story, penciled by Roger Cruz, was decent. It was noticeably different from Albuquerque’s style, but aside from that there was nothing to complain about. That’s not even necessarily a problem. For whatever reason, however, Cruz didn’t draw the second half. That torch was passed on to Riccardo Burchielli, who either failed or never even tried to match Cruz’s artwork. It just didn’t work for me somehow. Maybe you’ll disagree, I can’t say.
CONTENT: As I’ve stated before, Vertigo comics are not for kiddies. R-rated language. Bloody, disturbing violence, as you should expect from a comic with the word “vampire” in the title. No overt sexual content, but there is some nudity. Mimiteh doesn’t wear a stitch of clothing outside of her origin flashbacks, and we get a nightmare-image of Calvin Poole’s wife naked and covered in vampire bites. I have no idea what that’s about, I imagine we’ll find out in future volumes. There is some implied sexual content, but nothing explicit. Mimiteh spent her childhood first as servant then as wife to a French trapper, who then sold her services as a guide to the vampire exploration party. You can draw your own conclusions as to how old she was when her duties changed, since she never says. You can also draw your own conclusions as to what Travis and Piper have been doing all night in his car before he takes her home at the beginning of Death Race.
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Loved this book just like all the others in the series. Wish there was more than 6 books in the series