American Vampire 1976 is heating up for a series that already has enough buzz and creative genius to throw a stick of dynamite at. In the third issue out this week, the story continues to cut between two narratives, reveal more about the strange beast underneath our feet here on Earth, and brings the action in a big way. Simply put, it’s good action and adventure, but with monsters! Check out our reviews of American Vampire 1976 #1 and #2 to catch up.
The latter detail above is what makes this issue sing. There are vampires in this book, but many more beasts to be had. This issue opens up the world a bit for readers who aren’t unfamiliar, and those who are will get a bit of joy seeing old favorites pop up. Once again though, this issue opens with a deeply haunting opening which ties well with climate change. You can read it for yourself here. This adds a lot of weight and higher stakes to the already dangerous and tumultuous situations our heroes are in. It also sends a strong message about our own world and our lack of caring about climate change.
Speaking of, Skinner Sweet and his compatriots are totally surrounded inside a train car filled with historical American artifacts. This scene cuts in and out as the issue carries forward and plays up Skinner’s self-doubt and fear. Rafael Albuquerque makes you feel every ounce of fear via some well-timed and well-drawn facial expressions. This adds a bit of humanity, but also a sense of danger. For a book with vampires in lead roles, that’s important. This plot plays out well and serves as the adventure portion of the book, which works splendidly.
Cutting from that is a quieter scene that slows things down nicely. Snyder writes Cal and Travis as strong, but casual hunters as they scavenge the tracks below Times Square. What are they after? Dracula, of course! This plot serves up some good surprises and a crackerjack twist to end the book. Paired with the main plot it’s quite clear this book is judging the action, adventure, horror, and American history very well. That’s a lot to balance, but for the most part, it succeeds in touching on each element.
All that said, I can’t get over how good Dave McCaig is on this book. It’s stylized for sure with oranges and purples used to enhance scenes, which never feels too outlandish given the supernatural angle on this story. Mood and atmosphere always seemed to be tempered perfectly to enhance a moment, be it a brooding horror, a flair of excitement in an action sequence, or an unnerving sense of cruel horror under the New York city streets.
This issue makes clear that you probably should read back issues to get the full story, but that’s a given on some level. There are multiple instances of this book referencing past stories or introducing elements that would read much more richly if you had more information. Since the first two issues were so new reader friendly it comes as a bit of a surprise, but you can’t blame the narrative too much when there’s so much rich history to tie back into.
American Vampire 1976 has it all, from tense action to a fun adventure, visual horror, and a deep sense of human frailty. There’s a rich history within its pages begging readers to do their due diligence and read the back issues, but at the same time, this narrative works on its own.
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