I love detective stories. The old golden age comic work, pulp books, old detective TV shows, anything where a private dick used his skills to thwart evil with a very “I don’t care” attitude. Writer Scott Snyder takes the classic notion of a detective story and then twists it a little. The result is American Vampire #29, a hard boiled tale with a few things tweaked. Once again, Snyder draws us into the main plot of his story, introduces the subplot and then gooses the reader again with just enough action to keep it interesting.
As differences go, the first here is that the main grizzled detective is actually the damsel in distress. Pearl Preston, an old school vampire, has a checkered past. At one time, she was involved with the Vassal Of The Morning Star, an anti-vampire government unit, and that involvement has come back to haunt her. Hunted by a mysterious vampire group, Pearl is forced to return to the Vassal fortress with her husband, who was struck down by the same vampires out to kill Pearl. Now, she is teamed up with Skinner Sweet, the vampire who turned her and a major bad ass.
The second difference comes with the vampires. These two hard-boiled agents aren’t just looking for answers to a murder; they want to find a secret society of vampires being protected by Tinseltown’s rich and elite. When Sweet and Pearl question a millionaire flunky, the scene reads just like a '50s pulp novel, especially the dialog between the hardened detectives and the rich, condescending suspect. When the millionaire vampire flunky attempts to kill Sweet and Pearl with cougars, the last difference is revealed. These two agents don’t use crazy schemes or fisticuffs to get out of a sticky situation - they just vamp out and kill everything. Snyder allows the action to explode and then pulls it back in when Sweet and Skinner try to question the suspect. In a flash, a sniper kills their only lead.
Snyder’s American Vampire is effective because he loves to tie things together. Pearl and Skinner Sweet are connected through events in World War II that the series has touched on, but not in great detail. Carrying the strained relationship between Pearl and Sweet from last issue, we’re immediately hooked into what’s going on. Snyder then brings in his main story, as well as subplots involving what the Vassal has over Skinner Sweet and, ultimately, the evil plan of the secret vampire society. So much happens in American Vampire #29 that in lesser hands it would unravel. Snyder manages to keep a tight leash on the loose ends without loosening the knot of the main story.
Rafael Albuquerque’s art. Seriously? What the hell do I even say here? His work is completely unique. Others have tried to mimic his line work and failed miserably. As many small strokes as Albuquerque uses in every panel, you’d think the characters would be sloppy looking or their details stringy and disconnected. Instead, Albuquerque’s work has a unique life of its own. It ebbs and flows; the characters, backgrounds and action all have a certain motion. You are riveted to every single pencil the man involves himself with.
American Vampire is one of those series that rises above comic books and becomes great literature.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)