Review

Review

Review of 'American Vampire: Second Cycle' by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque

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It’s been too long, far too long, since we last delved deep into the world of American Vampire. We’ve been placated, sure. The excellent compilation volume, The American Vampire Anthology, was a perfectly terrific stopgap, with a wraparound story catching us up on what’s happening with badass vampire Skinner Sweet. But since writer Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque’s long hiatus from the title (since January of 2013!), readers have been desperate to dive back fully into the dual histories of Sweet and Pearl Jones, American vampires. Finally, with this month’s Second Cycle, the time has come.
 
American_Vampire_2nd_CycleThat time is now 1965, firmly in the second half of the twentieth century. Pearl Jones is passing as a descendent of herself, planted on her family farm somewhere in rural Kansas. She’s got a secret there that speaks to the almost hippie-esque ethos of the time. It’s an insightful move; just as Snyder recognized '50s tropes without giving into clichés in the Travis Kidd storyline, here he takes the '60s concepts of communal living and love-ins and looks to the realities behind them. Pearl is also doing some research into the lineage of her kind. The history and mythology of vampires that Snyder first addressed in the “Survival of the Fittest” and “Lord of Nightmares” miniseries get full focus here, with Snyder tossing out tantalizing hints about dragons, werewolves, trolls, and mummies. There’s also an omen, stark and intense, that threatens the status quo in a way we haven’t really anticipated.  
 
Then there’s Skinner Sweet’s story, revving his way toward the Mexican border, anticipating the biker outlaw feel of Easy Rider by a few years. His hair’s Dennis Hopper long and he’s got his own underground crash pad considerably shabbier and more Skinner than Pearl’s rural digs. As Pearl’s story traces the legacy of vampires, Skinner’s story traces the history of the comic itself; a lot of number-ones in comics call themselves the “perfect jumping-on point,” but this one delivers. Exposition feels like memory, enhancing the story without putting it on pause. Just as we settle into the familiar rhythms of Pearl and Skinner, however, a new threat screams into the story. Anticipated in a shocking prequel sequence, the presence of an entity known as The Gray Trader asserts itself brutally in the present of 1965; a creature whose nature is inexplicable, shrouded in Albuquerque’s violent storms.  
 
For those needing a more explicit introduction to the series, there’s a “Previously In American Vampire” overview bundled in. It’s hardly necessary; Second Cycle is as immediately gripping as American Vampire’s first cycle was, and as vital and exciting a experience for both long-time fans and new readers. What’s next for Pearl and Skinner? Will they meet again? Who or what is the Gray Trader, and what’s up with that omen? It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to find out. 

Kevin Quigley is an author whose website, CharnelHouseSK.com, is one of the leading online sources for Stephen King news, reviews, and information. He has written several books on Stephen King for Cemetery Dance Publications, including Chart of Darkness, Blood In Your Ears, and Stephen King Limited, and co-wrote the recently released Stephen King Illustrated Movie Trivia Book. His first novel, I’m On Fire, is forthcoming. Find his books at cemeterydance.com.

 
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