American Vampire is going on a break. Yep, issue #34 is the last issue of writer Scott Snyder’s vampire tour de force. At least for a while. There will be a point in 2013 when American Vampire returns, but for now, Snyder will be focusing on Batman, Man of Steel and his new limited series The Wake (with artist Sean Murphy of Punk Rock Jesus). To make matters worse, issue #34 is filled with bits and pieces of coming plot points, secrets and hidden agendas that won’t be resolved until American Vampire picks back up.
So what do we get in issue #34? Abelina Book, who has hunted Skinner Sweet with her daughter Felicia Book for the Vassals Of The Morning Star, is approached by a man named Gene Bunting. What does Bunting want? Well, he’s afraid somebody named The Gray Trader is in America. Who is that? Who knows? How does any of this tie into Skinner Sweet? Not really sure. What is the monster living in the basement of Abelina Book’s home? Yep, that remains a mystery as well. Snyder uses the pages of American Vampire #34 to make sure out attention remains crisp for the series return.
Most of the time, the last issue before a hiatus is a cheap ploy accentuated by a lame cliffhanger. Snyder is far too good a storyteller to attempt that. First, there are no main characters in this story - Snyder sticks to outside players. Second, the entire conversation between Bunting and Book is one that pokes you about the future without setting anything in concrete. There’s also a two-page spread that gives us a glimpse into the future of American Vampire but, again, it’s subtle. Issue 34 feels more like Snyder allowing us to catch our breath before he unloads on us again.
Helping to create mystery and mood is Rafael Albuquerque. I’m not sure what I can say about this man’s art that hasn’t been said already. Simply put, there is nobody who pencils like Albuquerque. His art is unmistakable, you see it, you know it’s him. The way he presents the human form, as if each character is one step away from becoming a twisted version of themselves. The cross-etching in the faces, the way Albuquerque uses thin lines to express emotion but never allows the weight of the character to be lost.
In issue #34, Albuquerque uses his ability with shadow to great effect. The point of this whole story is to cast a certain darkness on the future. Albuquerque uses shadowing in nearly every panel to create an dense air of unease. Whatever surprises Snyder has for the next wave of American Vampire stories, Albuquerque allows us to understand, on a visual level, how dark they will be. For the perfect example of this, look at the creature in the last panel. The combination of horror and sadness is perfect.
It’s sad to see American Vampire go, but incredibly exciting to think of the future.
(4 Story, 5 Art)