Book Review

American Vampire #1 by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque & Stephen King

a comic book that's errr fine i suppose

It’s been an incredibly long time since I have read any writing by Stephen King. Obviously, I’m 34 years old and I have two degrees and I don’t live alone with a gun collection and rock music and also I was quoted in the New Yorker and I have clothes that aren’t t-shirts and stained jeans and-

Is horror the last literary genre it’s not just acceptable but necessary to hold in contempt?

Of course, one can no longer dismiss horror cinema as a generic sign of intellectual maturity (I would have watched Get Out for a third time and so on), and maybe we never should have (I still haven’t watched The Exorcist after reading that James Baldwin essay where he talks about how great it is)… maybe the true intellectuals were never the snobs…

I suppose I’ve evidenced the truth of that by referring to James Baldwin, who definitely knew and understood more about everything than I ever have/ever will.

So, looks like I’ve arrived at an unexpected justification for reading some horror. Eww. But if is nothing else, it is a history of my growing wisdom, my increasing awareness of the fallacy of snobbery, of politess, of intellectual and social norms.

I don’t want to read horror novels, though… will I forget how to shower? Will I forget how to buy clothes? Will I become American? etc etc etc?

I can’t get away from it – the fear that reading a horror book will revert me, turn me, into some kind of monster… But I’ve read fantasy (well, Earthsea) and I’ve read science fiction (quite a bit by this point now, actually), and I haven’t lost-

Oh wait, I have!

The more genre texts I read, the less meaningful prose I write. The blog never stops but the blog isn’t writing or meaningful or clear or wise, the blog is blogging, the blog is a direct conduit between my sick sad consciousness and the handful of people who read this intentionally (as well as the slightly larger amount of people who read this accidentally then get confused and/or abusive via the “About & Contact” page) and-

Anyway, I was in Notting Hill for work and happened to wander past what is – to the best of my (limited) knowledge – the only bookshop in London with a large range of second hand comic books/graphic novels, so I went in and bought a few things.

This was one of those, the first collection of a series that (I later learned) has run on and off for around ten years, about day walking vampires (and their enemies, the trad old school nightwalking ones) in the Wild West of the late twentieth century and – simultaneously, bouncing between these two settings – glamorous Los Angeles during the early 1920s. Hollywood Babylon era innit.

Old school European vampires are the economic elite of the then-young(er) United States, somehow having been around for a very long time but never having yet knowingly bitten and turned an American citizen into one of their own, because once this starts happening, they realise with a shock that American Vampire (TM) [s] are different from European ones: they are stronger, healthier, hungrier, deadlier and – the key difference – they can survive in sunlight and only ever have their powers weaken during the New Moon (so for like two nights a month).

One of the new vampires the narrative focuses on (and this is in the sections written by Stephen King, who left the project after contributing to the five issues of the series collected in this volume) is an outlaw badboy cowboy, while the other is a well-meaning, hard working young woman who wants to make it in the acting business… The cowboy vampire makes her into a vampire after she is drained of blood by a group of vampire Hollywood producers who a sexy male actor fed her to.

It’s campy and it’s kinda fun, but it’s also very slight and the characters are sketches more than they are people. The vampires physically transform when they become vampiric (which always feels – to me – like a less interesting vampire trope than when this doesn’t happen), and the book opens with a dry af forward by Stephen King which tries to – without explicitly naming other depictions of vampires – state that this vampire story is better than Twilight and True Blood because it’s scarier than them. Honestly, I don’t know Twilight and, as someone who does enjoy vampire stories (not all of them) I acknowledge that I should, but I do know True Blood, which is definitely no less scary than American Vampire and definitely has better action, better characterisation, better dialogue and more Alexander Skarsgård than this does, all of which matter immensely.

Was American Vampire #1 a fun quick read? Yes, it was. Will I read more of the series? Probably not.

Will I read more stories about vampires, tho? Yes, yes I definitely will.

(((Scott Snyder also wrote Wytches, which I read some of a few years ago.))) is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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