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American Vampire Second Cycle #1

Review by Paul Bowler

American Vampire Second Cycle #1 marks the return of the Eisner-Award winning, and critically acclaimed series by #1 New York Times best-selling writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Superman Unchained, The Wake) and acclaimed artist Rafael Albuquerque (Animal Man), as they move their blood drenched vampire saga into the 1960’s

Pearl Jones is an entirely new type of vampire, part of an American breed; their kind can walk in the sun and have rattlesnake fangs. Stunningly beautiful, and immeasurably powerful, Pearl is also hiding from her tragic past… Skinner Sweets is also an American vampire, the first of his kind, ruthless to his enemies and bad to the bone.  He is also Pearl’s maker, now he’s going to Mexico, and has plans of his own…

American Vampire Second Cycle follows their dark paths, will fate bring them together again, or will they remain separated forever? And just who is the new villain waiting for them on the horizon, a being more vicious and evil than anything we’ve ever seen in American Vampire before? Who is this Grey Trader, a storm of conflict is brewing in his wake, and what exactly will his arrival mean for Skinner and Pearl?

American Vampire Second Cycle #1 (Cover)

The hit Vertigo series American Vampire returns after a year in hiatus, with American Vampire Second Cycle #1, which picks up where Pearl has returned to her family’s farm after Henry’s death and is coming to terms with her grief. She is also looking after lost children at her house, but protecting them will not be easy, especially now The Grey Trader has taken up the hunt. Skinner was once an outlaw in the days of the old-west, now he is trying to recreate his former life as a mercenary, riding a chopper as he travels the lonely highways.

The wait since American Vampire #34 in January last year, when the Vertigo title went on hiatus to allow Snyder to concentrate on his acclaimed run on Batman, Superman Unchained, and the launch of The Wake, has left us eagerly awaiting the return of this landmark series. Now American Vampire Second Cycle #1 is finally with us. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque continue to build on the epic scope and scale of their vampire saga with Second Cycle, exploring the conflicts affecting the vampire world, while expanding the mythology of the series.

After galloping through a chilling flashback that take us to the Mexican Territory of Arizona in 1881, American Vampire Second Cycle #1 reunites us with Pearl Jones on her family farm in Kansas 1965, where she returned after Henry’s death. Pearl has turned her parent’s home into a sanctuary for vampires seeking refuge, where she helps them to relocate and start over. The newest arrival, a young girl called May, is quickly welcomed by Pearl. We are also introduced to the other children that Pearl has taken in, a very eclectic and intriguing mix of vampire species.  However, as Pearl begins researching the girls species, May delivers a sinister warning to Pearl about a new, and even deadlier evil.

Skinner Sweet is currently terrorizing the Texas / Mexico border, stalking the highways on a chopper, dealing out death and mayhem in equal measure. Skinner has made his home in a  train car, a hideout that he helped create long ago, burred out in the middle of the desert where it is perfectly suited to his role as a bandit on the border. Skinner is now more aware of the longevity of his existence than ever before, and as the world has changed around him, he doesn’t seem able to find quite the same fulfilment as he used to. But soon Skinner finds himself facing a new threat, when an ambush on a storm drenched night leads him to a fateful encounter.

It’s interesting to see the paths Skinner and Pearl have taken. In term of the series timeline, nearly ten years have passed, and both of them have in a sense gone home – back to places in their former lives to forge new roles for themselves. They are each seeking out a meaning and purpose in their unead lives, but its clear right from the outset that big upheavals are on the horizon now The Grey Trader is coming. This new villain is undoubtedly one of the most powerful we have seen in the series so far, ancient and deadly, the Trader seems engrained within the very fabric of history itself, and he soon begins to make his presence felt.

The art for American Vampire Second Cycle by Rafael Albuquerque is stunning. From the opening scenes, Albuquerque’s artwork sweeps you along with the break-neck pace of Snyder’s narrative, switching seamlessly between characters and time zones with every turn of the page. Two exceptionally detailed splash pages bring us right up to date with the paths that Skinner and Peal have taken since we last saw them. Rafael Albuquerque brings a fluid clarity to these intricately structured scenes, highlighting key points where Scott Snyder has skilfully weaved in numerous references for the series fans while also making the recaps accessible to new readers.

The chase between Skinner and the truck is another stand out moment, where the “sugar man” closes in on his quarry, culminating in a brutal and explosively bloodthirsty showdown on the deserted highway. Dave McCaig’s colors complements Albuquerque’s art perfectly: the dusky orange hues surrounding Pearl’s farm are wonderfully evocative, the aforementioned highway chase swirls in haze of heat and dust, giving way to darker moments of reflection, before the cold blue tones of a rain swept climax envelopes you in the coming storm.

American Vampire Second Cycle #1 is a fantastic start to this new chapter in Scott Snyder’s renowned vampire opus. This promises to be one of the most exciting storylines so far, with a building scene of foreboding, it looks set to push the boundaries of the series like never before. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have excelled themselves with American Vampire Second Cycle #1, fans of the series will be delighted with his brilliant first issue, and it also serves as an excellent jumping on point for those checking out the series for the first time.