When I finally got into Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire series with their current arc Second Cycle, I was pleasantly surprised at how damn good it was. Building on some classic vampire themes, the two creators really pulled me into the story of a vagabond, highwayman vampire and a vampire ranch-owner who takes in young runaway vampires and gives them a good home. On top of all that they built this really intriguing mystery of a dark force that is hunting them, and I was sold on the series, hook, line and sinker.
Released this past week, American Vampire: Second Cycle #3 finally brings the two protagonists Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones as they fight off against an unknown type of vampire-lamprey monster that really gives them a run for their money. The fact that this monster was once a young runaway vampire named May who Pearl had taken under her wing only adds to the tragedy of the whole thing. And on the other hand we see what is happening with with their friend Calvin, as he comes under attack himself. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are on top form here with the rest of their team.
There is a hell of a lot of complexity to this issue, and that becomes apparent only on a second read-through, or a third read-through if you are so inclined to read the issue for a third time, like I was. And that’s not because the complexity works against the issue, quite the opposite in fact. Scott Snyder with his Batman ongoing run has shown that he is right at home telling complex stories about complex characters, and he is basically doing the same here, except he is doing it even better because he has full range of movement here as far as the story development is concerned because this is an original idea.
The first half of this issue, or rather the first two-thirds, are all about Skinner and Pearl fighting against the monster that May has become, and therein lies the tragedy of the whole thing, especially once the fight ends. With Skinner, we haven’t seen him since the cliffhanger of the first issue and he pops in now to deliver some much-needed explanation of events and all you need to do is to put the various dots together and come up with what is happening, which is quite aptly reflected in the cover artwork by Rafael Albuquerque.
Seeing the interactions between Skinner and Pearl, who clearly have a lot of antagonistic history between them, is quite the revelation since I expected them to be closer than that. Particularly since Skinner is the one who turned Pearl, if I remember things correctly. There’s a lot of tension in the issue for sure, especially once Skinner enters the picture, and things also take a drastic turn for the grim and dark since he is able to shed some light on what is happening right now, and what happened with May. To a degree.
Scott Snyder plays things a little close to the chest still, but that’s fine with me though since he is still building up the overall mystery and these kinds of things take time to setup, especially if they are meant to really resonate with readers. And if there’s one writer in the industry who knows how to do that, that’s Scott Snyder for sure. His writing reflects the thrill of the story all the way and you really get pulled into the whole thing and just don’t want to give up. In other words, his writing is addictive!
Rafael Albuquerque, colorist Dave McCaig and letterer Steve Wands are at the top of the game in this issue, just as they were in the previous two issues. Whether we have the big action sequence with Monster-May or Skinner relating what happened to him after the cliffhanger in the first issue, the art is amazing with the pencils and the colours. Everything stands out sharply and you really feel as if you are watching a movie more than you are reading a comic. The best thing in this issue though, the expression-work. May’s face is so well-detailed both during and after the fight that it almost breaks your heart to see what has happened to her, for no fault of her own.
Man, all I gotta say is that I’m absolutely loving this series and that I’m definitely a convert.