Well…this just didn’t work for me. In part, it’s my own fault — I didn’t catch on that this was a collection of short works with a vampire theme, so of course when the story switched characters and drastically switched art, I was lost. That’s when I stepped back and checked to see what I was reading. Even knowing this, it didn’t work as a collection for me.
I’ve been reading and enjoying vampire literature before it was (recently) popular, and as I’ve gone through a number of good graphic novels lately, I was looking forward to some good, visually appealing vampire work.
The book starts in 1967 with a motorcycle-riding cowboy vampire being blown up in a diner. There isn’t much by way of explanation except his boasting of being the first American Vampire. He (Skinner Sweet) talks about stories, stories about himself, and then we move to the year 1588, and it had been my impression that Skinner is still narrating, with the story of a village of vampires that decimate the Choanoke tribe of natives and how the natives learned to fight back. I was waiting for an explanation as to how Skinner Sweet, the First American Vampire, fit in to the story, but was never told. Then the story moves to 1856, Topeka, Kansas with a young couple looking to begin their lives together and make a homestead. The homestead is attacked by a vampire who looks not unlike Skinner (but it’s hard to tell … the art is very different in style) and there is a fight.
The story pretty clearly is done, and a new one starts, 1877 in Canada. A hunter/trapper encounters a lone child. They don’t speak the same language but they both understand fear when vampires attack.
1924 Death Valley. Definitely another Skinner Sweet story, this one not narrated by him, but about him.
Hollywood, 1925. New York, 1940. Portland, Oregon, 1940. And then back to 1967 and we bookend the short pieces with Skinner Sweet once again talking about the stories told about him. Perhaps this is why I thought these were stories about a single vampire? The lack of consistency, both in story-telling, as well as in art, makes the first half to two-thirds of this book confusing.
That last portion of the book, fifty-some pages, is one story, “The Long Road to Hell,” by Scott Snyder and Raphael Albuquerque. It’s a story of teen-age love, in the midst of vampires, that survives to the bitter end. It is well told and illustrated, but it is a bit flat. There is nothing to hold us to the story. None of the characters are compelling.
The artwork in this collection, being from a variety of artists, ranges from strong and powerful, gripping dark art, to soft, almost romatic sketchy art that doesn’t feel appropriate for vampire stories.
I like the idea of a graphic novel with short vampire stories, but this particular collection was less than satisfying. I’d be willing to try another volume — there’s promise here — but they’ll have to do a bit better than this to keep me interested.
Looking for a good book? This graphic novel features stories of vampires in the Americas, but it rambles and is very inconsistent. Let’s try a different volume.
* * * * * *
American Vampire, Volume 6
authors: Scott Snyder, Greg Rucka, Jason Aaron, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone
artists: Raphael Albuquerque, Declan Shalvey, Ivo Malazzo, Ray Fawkes, Tula Lotay, John Paul, Leon, Becky Cloonan, Jeff Lemire, Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá
hardcover, 144 pages