Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s epic series American Vampire all started in 2010, but in many ways, their return to the series in American Vampire 1976 is like a fresh start. This new series, set for a nine-issue run, takes place in 1976, resetting its characters for a new epic story that Snyder has said will take the story all the way up to the present day. This new story will instantly feel impactful after you’ve read it, and it also stands alone as a solidly written and drawn comic. It’s a series I’ve only dabbled with previously, but I found myself enjoying every panel and page of the way.
American Vampire 1976 opens on a scene in 1741. The scene is simple enough, cast in a yellowish hue as two men in colonial garb uproot a tree. The tree’s root, it seems, is a monster. As they hammer an axe into the face of the monster, one can surmise Americans have been chopping at the root of evil in America for some time. It’s almost a pastime. The opening is a bit haunting, comes as a surprise, and is the perfect setup to start the issue. By the end, you’ll be flipping back and contemplating what it is Snyder and Albuquerque are up to.
Cut to Skinner Sweet, the main character of this story, driving a motorcycle in the circus to wow onlookers in an Evel Knievel-style show. Much of this issue is about checking in on characters from the series, seeing where they are, and then thrusting them into their respective plots. I wouldn’t necessarily say this comic is like an Ocean’s Eleven, getting the band together for a big heist, but it travels that path a bit and has a similar vibe. That creates a sense of urgency in all of the stories and helps push the plot forward at a good pace.
The art is fabulous, with great color by Dave McCraig, setting the mood and atmosphere perfectly for each character’s reintroduction. The colors set each scene apart, from the bright, flashy colors of Sweet riding his motorcycle to mysterious green hues in a scene in a cave around Alaska like something out of The Island of Doctor Moreau. It’s early yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised of McCraig gets an Eisner nomination for his work here. There are vastly different settings in this book, all captured well by Albuquerque, which helps set the stage for this modern era and how different the world is for each character and the course their lives have taken them. The placement of each angle heightens the action and intrigue of each scene, too.
This is also a deeply satisfying read on its own merits, with great high-impact moments to be had in each character arc. There are multiple surprises — hell, the root monster on the very first page is a great surprise — that keep the reader on their toes and excited. An extension of surprises, Snyder has given each character a strong path to take at the outset. Casual readers who aren’t tapped into this universe will likely be intrigued by what may come next for every character involved thanks to the measured way Snyder lays out each character’s personal journey, the stakes in play, and the mountain they must climb to achieve their goals.
Similar to the surprises and character arcs, each character is completely different, and yet needs to find something to fulfill themselves. They’re all on different courses — certainly, Sweet needs to find some self-love in his heart, but they’re also all in need of a new direction. They’re meandering, and this book sets them on a new course, which helps you feel invested in their journeys.
American Vampire 1976 #1 effortlessly re-introduces readers to its characters, their way of life, and their new directions this story sets out to explore. Paced to perfection with characters you’re drawn to, this first issue is engaging for new readers and old alike with grand adventure, monster hunting, and a heist too. American Vampire 1976 is expertly polished, with a mosaic of interesting characters in a narrative that’s rich with history and intrigue.