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Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: American Vampire

Before Halloween I read the first bound issue of American Vampire, the brand new graphic novel series written by Scoot Snyder and Stephen King and illustrated by Rafael Albuquereque.

There was much excitement surrounding the release of this book.  First, it is Stephen King's first origin straight to graphic novel story.  But, second, and even more important and exciting, American Vampire marks the solid return of the super evil vampire.

Can you tell I liked it?

Here is the basic plot info.  The story is told in two time periods.  The "present" of the story is 1925 Hollywood and follows a young starlet, Pearl, as she tries to make it big in the movie industry.  The flashback sections of the story happen a generation ago, in the Wild West.

What you need to know before you begin, is that the uniting force between these 2 stories is Skinner, who has become a "new world vampire," and is out to get the "old world vampires" who cannot stand sunlight and seem to control all of the money and power in the American West.

Skinner appears to have no weaknesses. He is vampire through and through, but he can be out in broad daylight.  But over the course of the book we see him learn about his own limitations. He is evil, but has a sense of justice.  As the story goes along, he turns Pearl, and the two are just beginning what I hope will be a long journey of terror and destruction, all in the name of a warped sense of justice.

In terms of appeal, this is a stunning book.  The main color scheme and style is well represented in the cover image above.  The drawings of Pearl and Skinner in full vampire mode are terrifying.  It was disconcerting how much I liked them despite how evil they look. I liked this, but those looking to totally sympathize with Skinner and Pearl may be disappointed.

This is a violent and disturbing book, where people are murdered and decapitated. Innocent people die and there is no truly good hero.  This is a true work of horror.

Interestingly, there is a huge appeal factor in the setting.  Many people like to read anything and everything about the Wild West and/or the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Obviously, some readers may need a word of warning about the violence here, but I book talked this to a reader who was only mildly interested until I mentioned the setting, and then he couldn't wait to start reading it.

Three Words That Describe This Book: vampires, western, violent

Readalikes: If you want to read more horror graphic novels check out the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill, The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman, or the Hellboy series by Mike Mignola.

I also felt that my alternating love and disgust for Skinner and Pearl reminded me of Ig in Horns by Joe Hill.

For more scary vampires you can also try The Passage.

For those who want to try a western, if you haven't read Louis L'Amour before, go to the library and check out Hondo.  There is a lot of similarity here.  I have had students read Hondo in the past.  Click here to see what they have had to say.

For those who liked the Golden Age of Hollywood setting and its focus on the underbelly here, try Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken.  Trust me, it might not be horror, but it is a dark look at the entertainment industry.

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