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American Vampire Second Cycle #7

Review by Paul Bowler

The Cold War starts to heat up in American Vampire Second Cycle #7, its all nuclear silos, civil rights movements, and space programmes as the Grey Trader’s influence grows ever stronger. The smash hit Vertigo series American Vampire Second Cycle continues the new arc as #1 New York Times best-selling writer Scott Snyder and acclaimed artist Rafael Albuquerque send Pearl and Skinner on a blood soaked countdown to terror. While Pearl Jones and Felicia Book set out to reach Area 51 to acquire a powerful weapon, Skinner Sweet and Calvin Pool’s team gets ready to embark on a voyage to the deadliest frontier of all: space!

After the horrifying encounter with the Grey Trader, events take a startling new turn in in this issue, as Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones find themselves embarking on two very different missions. This issue grabs you by the throat right from the start and goes straight in for the jugular with its terrifying prologue in West Florida. From there its action and drama all the way as Dark Moon Part 2 begins in earnest outside a grim looking gas station in Arizona.

There’s a great dynamic here between Pearl and Felicia Brook, the director of the Vassals of the Morning Star, they work well together, and they both share no illusions about how dangerous their plan to break into Area 51 to steal the weapon for the VMS will be. Optimism may be a bitch, especially when it comes to the USA’s top secret facility of weirdness, but compared to the thought of lunch at the Gobble and Gas it’s definitely a chance worth taking.

American Vampire Second Cycle #7 (Cover)

Scott Snyder keeps the plot racing along, each scene and shift of location melding into the other seamlessly, and even when the flashback to Detroit (1960) comes crashing through the roof the pace and suspense never congeals for a moment. When we catch up with Skinner and Calvin’s team at launch complex 19 in Florida, preparations are already underway for their mission into space to prevent information from a Russian satellite falling into the hands of the Grey Trader’s people – an incident that could well spark nuclear conflict. However, the mission is far from straightforward, the module will be cramped, and Skinner’s opinion of their ride to get them into space and the “something” called a computer is absolutely priceless!

With the Cold War, the space race, and the civil rights movement, providing a heady social and political backdrop for this story arc to unfold across, Scott Snyder sublimely weaves these themes into the issue, heightening the tension as the action unfolds, the sense of upheaval and resistance to change boils away in the background, and the constant threat of nuclear devastation is ever present during this juncture in history. Add the vast legacy of American Vampire into the mix, along with the ancient threat of the Grey Trader, and you have an issue that encapsulates everything that makes American Vampire Second Cycle so utterly compelling from cover to cover.

Talking of covers, wow oh wow! Rafael Albuquerque’s crazy Vampire monkey cover is awesome, and it gives you a tantalising glimpse of the fabulous artwork from Albuquerque that awaits you inside this issue. The hauntingly bleak scenes at the gas station in Arizona really set the mood, before we join Skinner and the rest of the team for our first look at the Titan II rocket. There are some particularly nightmarish moments for Pearl as well, there’s also Skinner’s ongoing struggle with the infection, and Rafael Albuquerque masterfully splices these hellish visions and grotesque monstrosities to form a violently dark and twisted shock twist. The colors by Dave McCaig are also excellent throughout, and bring a rich clarity to every scene.

The issue closes with a stunning confrontation, the revulsion of the sixth breed, and a sweetly horrific cliff-hanger that will have you on the edge of your seat. Strap yourself in for one hell of a ride because American Vampire Second Cycle #7 is a terrific issue, and Snyder, Albuquerque, and McCaig have really excelled themselves with this one!