Review by Frank Plowright
For the first time American Vampire doesn’t jump forward around a decade with the start of a new volume. We’re still in the 1950s, and the shock for Pearl Preston in volume four is about to have some repercussions in the first of two extended stories, ‘Blacklist’.
Writer Scott Snyder reveals for the first time the extent of the resources available to vampire hunters the Vassals of the Morning Star, noting their well equipped new California base is but one of many. The story title is a direct reference to the anti-communist hysteria whipped up in early 1950s USA, and the fear it spread through the liberal film community in Hollywood. Just as Bloch entwined himself in the movie industry in the 1920s, it’s suspected that a vampire with powerful connections is protecting those who’d otherwise be witch hunt victims. Readers who’ve been paying attention won’t have much trouble figuring who’s responsible.
The previous volume also revealed a surprising change of circumstances for Skinner Sweet. How that came about and the resentments it’s bred have their consequences here. Throughout the story there are references to Agent Hobbes’ absence from the VMS, and the second longer tale, ‘Lord of Nightmares’ follows up on his trip to Europe.
Hobbes to this point has always been a pretty one-note character, and so he remains despite fleshing out his past, but the story built around him is a good one. Until this point there has been one obvious, prominent out of copyright character unmentioned in American Vampire. The London base of the VMS was constructed to contain them, yet now they’re free.
More than any other episode to date ‘Lord of Nightmares’ resembles a vampire movie. It toys with traditional vampiric abilities that haven’t played a great part in the series to date, and has an epic sweep, partially supplied by a clever manner of locking into the era’s global politics. It also features armies of vampires rather than just individual covens.
‘Blacklist’ artist Rafael Albuquerque remains at a peak when illustrating savage vampire combat, and as there’s plenty of it his art’s at its best. Dustin Nguyen draws the Hobbes chapter, and also has a distanced style. His finest pages are set in the snows of Russia.
The book ends with the status quo established since the early days of the series considerably altered, yet within material that anyone following the continuity will probably enjoy. Volume six sidelines the continuity and lets other creators play with the vampires.