American Vampire 1976 has been a series to watch thanks to its sense of adventure, unique take on monsters, and its now-storied history that has lasted a decade. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are nearly at the halfway point of the planned 12 issue series and this week the series is at a turning point that could make or break the world, literally. Expect big reveals, key flashbacks, and monsters galore.
This issue opens inside the Matterhorn, where our main heroes are confronting some ancient mad giants. It’s not looking good for them–they literally flew a plane into the mountain and aren’t that prepared–but thankfully they encounter ancient monsters of a different type and a conversation about the world is in order. This conversation is the backbone of the issue with opportune cutaways to other plots that develop nicely. A cutaway in this conversation involves some real American history, adding a nice layer to what we know about a certain George Washington. You’ll come away from this issue with a bit more context about how America was founded and how monsters were involved.
What makes this series work so well is how layered its story is within each issue, but also the long history of the series as a whole. New readers will find complexity that’s intriguing and of course, longtime readers will get entertaining reveals that connect back to previous issues. Much like the narrative that spans hundreds if not thousands of years, there is a lot to keep in your mind to understand the tapestry Snyder and Albuquerque have weaved.
Albuquerque and color artist Dave McCaig do an excellent job keeping the conversational scenes interesting. These characters are simply standing in a cave, but Albuquerque imbues high emotion into it, and their positioning adds drama. This is a high stakes moment and the art doesn’t let you forget it. A key flashback is rendered well, using a worn effect as if the pages are old. The design of these ancient monsters is also quite good with each being wildly different from the others, and yet familiar to what we know about monsters in fiction. It’s almost as if the representatives of the Universal classic monsters are all accounted for.
A few things throw off this issue a tad. For starters, the monsters our heroes encounter appear to change almost at random, which can be confusing. You might find yourself flipping back and forth wondering where new monsters showed up, but in fact, they changed off-panel and then later change back. The subplot entwined with the White House gets a single page and its brevity does a disservice to the reveal especially since you need to remember what is going on there to fully catch up. This might be resolved when the series is read in one sitting, though. The cliffhanger ending feels a bit too convenient as well, and while it’s nice to see we might be getting a final story given the moves Snyder and Albuquerque are making, it would be stronger if direct threats were built up a bit more.
American Vampire 1976 continues to be an interesting exploration of history and how monsters fit within what we know. The adventure elements are limited in this issue — this is mostly a long conversation, but the characters are intriguing as ever.
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