By Paige MacGregor
Despite the recent Twilight phenomenon, the most influential vampire lore has traditionally originated in Europe. From F.W. Murnau’s silent film Nosferatu to Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, the most enduring vampire tales have come straight out of places like Germany and England. Now, however, New York Times bestselling author Stephen King joins Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque to create a monthly comic series that revolves around a new, distinctly American breed of vampire.
Well-known short story writer Scott Snyder’s contribution to American Vampire #1 tells the tale of a Jazz Age starlet-wannabe named Pearl and her roommate, Hattie. The two girls spend their days as extras on Hollywood sets, and nights working second and third jobs in order to make rent. When Pearl catches a lucky break on set and is asked to stand in for a light reading for the film’s leading lady, she finds herself swept into a world of decadence, invited to a ritzy party with the film’s elite cast members and other high society individuals. Unfortunately, what Pearl and Hattie discover among the Hollywood hotshots is something far more sinister than expected.
American Vampire #1 features Stephen King’s first comic book writing based on original material. King’s story, titled “Bad Blood”, tells the tale of an 1880 bank robber and murderer called Skinner Sweet. After being taken into custody, Sweet runs into an old enemy while being transferred. The scuffle that ensues gives birth to the first American vampire—perhaps one of the very same creatures that Pearl and her roommate have the misfortune of meeting years later.
The vampires in American Vampire #1 are a unique breed: stronger and faster than their European ancestors, American vampires are also more muscular and vicious than their predecessors as well. Although the first issue of the series leaves the recently bitten Skinner Sweet a bloody heap in the middle of the desert, we already know that he will make a formidable blood-drinker if his personality traits carry over during the transformation.
American Vampire #1 sets the stage for what will undoubtedly be a very interesting vampire story. Assuming that vampires have successfully infiltrated at least part of America (and an influential part, at that) by the time Scott Snyder’s story takes place, the comic series appears to be asserting that a single man could be entirely responsible for the proliferation of vampires in the continental United States. Had the goal of the vampire who turns Skinner been to create a strong, clever creature capable of surviving and even thriving, he couldn’t have chosen a better candidate. After all, the same qualities that made Skinner such a renowned criminal and allowed him to evade capture for such a long time will allow him to survive as a vampire.
When combined with a compelling storyline, the beautiful visual style of American Vampire #1 makes this a must-read title, especially for Stephen King fans. We have a feeling that the king of terror has more than a few tricks up his sleeve for the remainder of the series.
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