Six words which will make you want to read this: "Original Stephen King comic. With VAMPIRES."
In actuality, this is a two-part comic -- one part is by King, while the other is by a guy I had never heard of named Scott Snyder. But both halves of "American Vampire Volume 1" are united by a common theme -- vintage Americana is mingled with some gruesome, bloodthirsty vampires, in the 1920s and the Wild West. And it is AWESOME.
Snyder follows a young starlet named Pearl, who is invited to a party thrown by a film producer. The next day, she is found covered in bites in the desert and dying of blood loss. But then she wakes up to find vampiric cowboy Skinner Sweet next to her, and he informs her that she's now a vampire.
But she's not the same kind of vampire as the ones who attacked her -- like him, she's a newly evolved "American vampire" with claws, monstrous teeth and immunity to the sun. Now Pearl is out for revenge against the "old-style" vampires who killed her -- and along with her new love interest Henry, she's got some bloody revenge, treachery and a brewing war to deal with.
King's story goes further back in time to the late 1800s, and shows us the original "American Vampire" -- the infamous Skinner Sweet, an outlaw who runs afoul of a vampire in the desert. When a flood washes out the town where he's buried, the newly undead Sweet returns to the world... and he's more dangerous than ever before.
"American Vampire" is a pretty unique kind of comic book -- two brilliant writers (one famous and one unknown) writing two intertwined story arcs about vampires from long ago. Even better, both King and Snyder manage to do something unique and special with the vampire mythos that doesn't involve pale, wangsty aristocrats.
And while the stories are closely connected, King and Snyder have very distinct styles. King's is faster, brasher and earthier, adding sudden splatters of horror to a seemingly simple Wild West story. Snyder's is a slower, more refined story that suddenly bursts into a bloody revenge tale. And there's a clever undercurrent to his story -- predatory Hollywood bloodsuckers as REAL bloodsuckers? Not bad.
Snyder also has a knack for creating likable characters -- Pearl is a thoroughly likable protagonist, a strong young lady who has to make the best of being transformed into a bloodsucker. King's characters are less endearing, but no less vibrant -- his depiction of Skinner is of a ruthless, grinning cowboy covered in dust and stubble ("I want candy!").
And Rafael Albuquerque is well suited to both stories -- he relies heavily on shadows, black profiles and dark figures, but also suffuses the daytime parts with strong desert light. He also does some brilliant things with color -- our first glimpse of the vampires takes place in a room filled with bloody background, and the train battles take place against a slow-burning sky that fades into the color of flames.
"American Vampire 1" is an excellent start to a promising new series -- and Snyder and King are quite a formidable storytelling team. Vibrant, creepy and wonderfully bloody.