February 9, 2012

Getting Graphic: "American Vampire Vol. Two" by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque

American Vampire Volume Two
written by Scott Snyder
illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque and Mateus Santolouco
ISBN 9781401230692

If I didn't impress the point enough when I blogged about American Vampire Volume One, then let me make it clear right now: if you are a fan of vampires in all their monstrous glory, you need to read this series.

It's Las Vegas during the mid-1930s. The Hoover Dam is nearing completion and the head honchos of the consortium responsible for its construction are being murdered. These aren't gangland slayings; gangsters tend not to drain their victims of all their blood.

Cash McCogan, Vegas' young and grizzled police chief is doing what he can to keep the peace, but he's understaffed and his cells are filling up with the rowdy, carousing dam workers. The murders are the worst among a whole lot of bad. Enter two FBI agents to give him a hand with a bit of inside knowledge on who-or-what is responsible for the killings. It doesn't take long for the FBI cover to fall apart, revealing the two newcomers in town are vampire hunters. And they've got their sites on the same guy Cash does: Skinner Sweet, or as he's going by in his Vegas bordello, Jim Smoke.

Meanwhile Pearl Jones, the formidable young woman Skinner turned into a vampire in Volume One is living the idyllic life with the love of her life in the Colorado outback ... until the vampire hunters arrive. They aren't out to kill her though; they just want information that may help their comrades in Las Vegas.

That's the first three parts of this graphic novel called "Devil in the Sand." After that there's a two-part story titled "The Way Out," which takes a closer look at Pearl Jones and her attempt at a happily ever after in Colorado. It becomes apparent that won't be easy, and not because of vampire hunters. Hattie Hargrove, Pearl's former friend turned vamp, is still alive and--hoo boy--she is pissed.

Even if the stories weren't so damned riveting, gritty, and relentless, this book would be well worth reading just to gawk at the artwork. Rafael's illustrations are as alluring and gruesome as they were in the first volume, and Mateus' work with "The Way Out" shows he is no slouch either. The mix of hard-scrabble desert and carnal cityscape are impressive enough, but the viciousness and vulnerability--not to mention the carnality--are captured perfectly.

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