29 Nov 2012

Cover To Cover: AMERICAN VAMPIRE #33

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig
DC/Vertigo $2.99

Stewart R: Gotham this. Batman that. Who’s doing Superman now?! The past year has been a very special year for Scott Snyder at DC and 2013 promises to be even bigger, but while all of the fanfare of the Joker’s return and Jim Lee pencilling the Last Son of Krypton has been blaring out over the summer convention season, a smaller, rather important piece of news was released to the world that relates to Snyder’s creator-owned attention gripper, American Vampire; a short hiatus for creative breathing room is just up around the corner. I am personally taking that as the good news that it is meant to be as Snyder explained at the New York Comic Convention that he and artist Rafael Albuquerque have many ideas that they want to work through and get some lead-in time on in order to make this the best dang vampire comic book on the shelves. What it did highlight to me however, is that the current arc must be reaching its climax and as this incredibly talented writer is not afraid to pour the heartbreak in between the pages of this title and its tie-ins, we might be in for some tears.

American Vampire #33 brings 'The Blacklist' arc to a close and brings many of those initial plot strands set out in the first 6 or so issues together and does so in a very personal, intimate and dramatic fashion. With Pearl’s former best friend, Hattie now a vengeful American Vampire in her own right, leading the local blood-sucking coven - who previously had Pearl in their sights - in a personal campaign to destroy everything our heroine has come to love over the past 30 years.

Through the various other arcs that have traversed the early 20th Century to this point of American Vampire, I’ve always liked the fact that the threat of Hattie’s return seemed to hang menacingly over the story - it was never a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’. With her history with Pearl and her main motive appearing to be pure revenge it meant that any resurface could be quick and all the more surprising and I certainly hadn’t been expecting her move to be so bold and ruthless. Snyder takes a terrific line in giving Hattie’s dialogue a slight tinge of regret and nostalgia as she often muses over the promise and golden future that the 1920s had offered to the two women, now tainted by the realities of that Hollywood dream and the shuddering tangent both their lives have taken. It helps to make the stakes that bit higher and also acts as a nice parallel to the hope and bright memories that Pearl still clings onto within her love for Henry.

One of the key changes for me has been that which has taken place within Skinner Sweet over the course of thirty three chapters. Gone has the candycane-licking sleaze seen early on, now replaced by a man who is starting to realise that even his grand plans can be waylaid by the machinations of others, strange feelings of loyalty and perhaps even love.  For a near-immortal vampire, it’s almost as if Sweet has aged and matured quite quickly. Series artist supreme, Rafael Albuquerque, does a fantastic job of highlighting that shift here with a far more sombre and serious looking Skinner whose attempts to smile in the face of serious threats seem far less confident and bravado-filled.

It is fair to say that #33 really does tie off some of those aforementioned threads (#34 released in January, prior to the hiatus, looks to be something of an epilogue for all that has come before with a possible look to the future) and drops bombshells of emotion all over the place. We’ve followed this endearing (forever) young woman through trials and tortures and it claws at the heart of the reader to see any sadness upon her face, yet it is undeniably what drives this book onwards to ever dizzying heights. There’s certainly bite to this book, but the teeth would have nothing to suck upon without the awesome beating heart within.  9/10

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