You have to love any comic that tells its tale at a hundred miles an hour. I don’t mean that as literary jest, I mean that American Vampire #23 happens during an epic car chase between our new vampire-killing hero Travis and, well, I’ll leave that until later. Once again, Scott Snyder uses his remarkable writing talents to weave a vampire story that doesn’t feel old or seem trite. This latest arc, Death Race, deals with a troubled soul who is out to slaughter every last vampire in the world and do it looking like Kenickie from Grease and the Fonz had a kid.
The opening splash page of American Vampire #23 dictates the pace of the whole issue. A grand spectacle of two cars rocketing over a small cliff in a heated and violent drag race. During this fall, our vampire killer Travis pontificates on death and love. Snyder’s use of calm inner monologue against the action of the drag race is perfect; it allows you to focus on character while still being entertained. Travis is chasing the vampire that slaughtered his family. The kill seems easily within his grasp until the trunk of the car Travis is chasing pops open and he sees a terrified and tied up Piper.
Who is Piper? She’s the monkey in the wrench, the fly in ointment. She’s the girl who almost led Travis to his death and the girl who gives him pause against his greater calling. Travis could just ram the car, kill Piper and get his prey. That’s what he’s set himself up as, the unfeeling loner, the heartless killer that will stop at nothing to get his vampire. Now that he’s stuck feeling something, Travis is forced to save the girl and jeopardize his own life. To keep everything interesting, Snyder also manages to sneak in some backstory about Travis, just so we really begin to care about him.
The astounding thing about this issue is how completely devoid of cliché it is. The loner anti-hero suddenly feeling emotion is usually catalyst for cliché-ridden garbage. Instead, Snyder gives us just enough background that we see the humanity in Travis that was driven from him as a child. The bits we’re given make Travis’s attempt to save Piper more a regaining of some bit of his humanity.
The fact that Snyder takes such a moment and turns it against Travis is proof of his storytelling ability. There is no time for love or trust when you’re going up against the vampire in the other car. Oh, who is that? Did I forget to mention it? Yep, it’s Skinner Sweet, and for those who know American Vampire, you know Travis is in some real shit now. For those who don’t know the history of Skinner Sweet, this is the main vampire focus of the series. He’s an all-over badass and a member of the undead crew that nobody wants to fuck with.
Knocking the visuals out of the park is artist Rafael Albuquerque. From the opening scene, this guy nails every panel. It’s not easy to replicate a car chase for 22 pages but Albuquerque makes it look easy. His ability to represent motion and real danger in a drag race within a two dimensional medium is nothing short of staggering. It feels like the race is whizzing by you, you sense the peril in every single page. I also love his eye for details and his ability with the human form, especially faces. Snyder in the story and Albuquerque behind the visuals is the reason American Vampire is the full-on blast that it is.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 9/10 (4.50 Story, 4.50 Art)