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Our Max Silver is here with with his review of American Vampire Second Cycle Vertigo Comics, right here on ComiConverse.
The penultimate chapter of Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s Dark Moon arc is here. So does it fly high or burn up on entry?
American Vampire #10 unfortunately does very little to buck the trend the series has been facing since it’s return as Second Cycle. That pattern comprises lots of setup with minimal emotional payout. Nuclear Armageddon is nigh, the agents of the Tongue are making their move, while the story is moving at a snail’s pace.
With the stakes so high, this issue feels incredibly self-indulgent in both the pacing and the paneling. The story in space, following Skinner and Calvin, is by far the worst offender. To Albuquerque’s credit the pages wonderfully convey the vastness and terror of space with often minimal dialogue. Had previous issues shouldered more emotional weight, it wouldn’t have been a problem; but with this being the penultimate issue, it comes up short and feels like a missed opportunity to have some significant development in the story’s feel.
It wasn’t a giant leap to assume that a mission consisting of vampires in space would have problems, but even the problems are disappointingly predictable. With Skinner’s infection causing him to transform uncontrollably, putting him in a rocket makes the “unexpected” problem one that many would have seen coming since issue eight. Unfortunately Snyder didn’t play on the expectation, he simply catered to it.
It doesn’t get any better on the ground with Pearl and Felicia. This current arc has had it’s share of betrayals. Unfortunately they’ve been coming from characters we’ve barely gotten any time to know or care about. This issue improves on that problem slightly. But just slightly. Felicia shooting Pearl was a mild surprise given there relationship lately but confrontation of some sort felt inevitable given last issues cliff hanger and the entire conflict between them is resolved in a few pages so that by the end of the issue your looking at there dynamic through the same lens as before. Bixby being revealed as a traitor was aggravating to see as a long time reader. It was a character I enjoyed immensely in Snyder and Albuquerque’s previous Backlist arc but there is no explanation given for his betrayal which takes the punch out of the entire revelation and is an especially large blemish on the issue given the series history of layered secondary characters.
To his credit Snyder wonderfully blends the fear and paranoia that defined the cold war era and infuses it thematically with the fear, paranoia and doubt of the characters themselves. Albuquerque provides some wonderfully violent moments and excels at selling the tension in space showcasing the harshness of the vacuum and the delightfully brutal vampire versus vampire action. There were a few spotty moments in Rafael’s facial work but overall they were few and far between. Dave McCaigs color work is fantastic with striking hues of sunlight against the coldness of space. The issue had tension, suspense and brutal action in an environment that’s never been seen before in American Vampire. It’s unfortunate then that this issue delivered something spectacular in the moment to moment action but failed to feel like anything other than filler for November’s oversized finale before the brief hiatus.
The issue disappoints by answering none of the questions it had setup.
What is the nature of the Beast?
Why is the tongue seeking out the location of the Ancients?
What’s the Isakku?
and what was the meaning behind Skinners vision last issue?
#10 provides striking visuals but as it stands it’s now on the shoulders of issue #11 to answer the real meaty questions that Second Cycle has put forward since it’s launch.
Max Silver is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @MaxSilver4
Delivers tension and violence but lacks the emotional resonance and exposition to really make you care.