American Vampire 1976 #1 was one of the best first issues of any series in 2020. It introduced all of its characters, gave us enough information on the rather robust history to understand the story, and looked damn good while doing it. This is a great horror adventure tale with deep roots in American history. In the second issue, a great train robbery is in order and the plot thickens as far as the antagonist is concerned, plus some backstory for the newbies in the back!
If you’re unfamiliar with this series, specifically Skinner Sweet and James Book, you’re in for a great recap of their pasts in the first three pages of this issue. Writer Scott Snyder sets up their relationship which in turn sets up the tensions in their relationship and complicated nature of their past before they set off to rob a train car. The main story is set on this train robbery and it’s an exciting punch in the story.
Artist Rafael Albuquerque and color artist Dave McCaig give the train scenes a nice action-adventure feel, right down to the intense moment of standing on a train with a tunnel barreling down on the characters. Prior to this, the flashback of Sweet and Book has a dreamlike quality that sets it apart from the main narrative but also gives it a gloomy supernatural vibe. There are some dark and twisted creatures to eyeball in these scenes adding a sense of dread and fear to the narrative.
Much of the book takes place in New York City with another set of characters who are on more of a creepy detective mission. These scenes let the creators play around with the ’70s and how New York was much different then as well as drench the story in artificial light. There’s a sense we’re in a modern era that’s somehow fake or untrustworthy thanks to the use of color and shadow.
The creative team is also cognizant of character beats apart from the main mission or what they are saying. You see it with Skinner Sweet when he attempts to shoot a track changing post, or how Cal points at a hanging corpse gives the reader a sense of the personality of the character. It’s in these little moments where the characters feel more real.
There is much more to this issue as well when it comes to monsters. You may not expect the delightfully toothy beasts that show up and there are some truly unhinged beasts to ogle here. If the first issue lacked monsters and dark horror you’re in for a treat with what is revealed here. These creatures raise the stakes well, visualizing what kind of threat our heroes are up against. I was a bit confused as to what a monster is talking about as he speaks to a secret service agent but the effect of the obtuse waxing off of evil plans and domination works.
The stakes are effectively raised in American Vampire 1976 #2 and the monsters are revealed. This has the historical weight of each scene wrapped in moments of dark psychological impact you won’t want to miss.