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American Vampire #9

Review by Paul Bowler

Having snuck into Area 51, Pearl Jones and Felicia Brook must now escape from the top secret facility in American Vampire Second Cycle #9, while Skinner Sweet takes a perilous journey into space with Agent Pool to stop the Grey Traders people acquiring film from a Russian satellite. As Pearl and Felicia confront the terrifying horrors lurking behind the walls of Area 51, they might become test subjects themselves, just as Skinner encounters a deadly new threat in space as his mission reaches a crucial moment…

The critically acclaimed smash hit Vertigo Comics series American Vampire Second Cycle blasts into space as #1 New York Times best-selling writer Scott Snyder and renowned artist Rafael Albuquerque take Pearl’s and Skinner’s missions with Felicia Brook, the director of the Vassals of the Morning Star, to new heights of unparalleled terror that are – quite literally – out of this world. The cold war and the space race are now inexorably entwined with the ancient threat posed by the Grey Trader, and the stakes have never been higher for Pearl and Skinner!

American Vampire Second Cycle #9 is a veritable roller coaster ride of non-stop action. Scott Snyder continues to build the creeping sense of dread and tension that has permeated every corner of this new arc, over the course of this issue the individual strands of Skinner’s and Pearl’s separate missions gradually begin to converge as the pieces start falling into place, and the nail-biting action doesn’t let up for a moment.

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A 24 caret blood transfusion may have stemmed Skinner’s infection for now, temporarily holding off his inevitable transformation, but we are soon made all too aware of just how tenuous a reprieve this really is for Skinner. While the mission in space approaches its objective, the bond between Skinner and Agent Pool continues to develop, and Pool’s story about his brother reinforces this arcs social and political backdrop in the most tragic of circumstances. Back on Earth, Pearl and Felicia are now captives inside Area 51, were they face the disquieting horror of a secret chamber that can erase anything; an area which also has far reaching links to the search for The Beast that leave a decidedly aquatic subtext swirling in the historic eddies of its wake…

Scott Snyder crafts some excellent character building moments during this issue of American Vampire, striking key emotional beats, melding humour, and stark, outright terror, which sublimely evolve into the issues most dynamic scenes. Skinner’s and Pool’s mission thoughtfully blends melancholy memories with the awe-inspiring majesty of space, while Pearl’s and Felicia’s experiences in Area 51 see them witnessing grotesque torture as they face a desperate struggle to find a way out and escape in one piece. This is American Vampire at its very best, thought provoking, dark, and unflinchingly graphic, this issue has it all!

Needles to say, Rafael Albuquerque’s phenomenal artwork on this series remains as outstanding as ever. From an apocalyptic Las Vegas lost between somewhere and forever, Albuquerque infuses Skinner’s nightmarish vision into our imagination with some deeply unsettling, and disturbing scenes as the Grey Trader’s influence bubbles away under the surface, festering, and worming its way into Skinner’s consciousness. Likewise, the scenes in space are stunning, and the dawn of a new day is simply breathtaking. Area 51’s interior is chillingly dark and ominous, which serves to heighten the even tension further. The colors by Dave McCaig accentuates the feel of the different environments perfectly: the way the burnt orange glow inside the capsule dissolves into the beautiful golden hues of the dawn is beautiful, cold blue and vivid green tones make Area 51 feel more like a high-tech slaughterhouse of horror, and the inky void of space is a beautifully silent sight accentuated by the faint shimmering glow of the Earth’s atmosphere.

American Vampire Second Cycle #9 rockets towards a thrilling climax when the grim reality of a death trap begins to sink in for Pearl and Felicia just as Skinner and Pool make a shocking discovery in space. Enthralling from cover to cover, with its excellent story by Scott Snyder and terrific art by Rafael Albuquerque, American Vampire Second Cycle #9 excels on every level and is another stand out issue in this remarkable series.