Review: American Vampire

American Vampire Book 1

By Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquerque

In this return to the true vampire stories, as promised by King in the introduction, you won’t find any glistering vampires. No beautiful and charming blood suckers here. Only the true monsters they’re supposed to be. And that’s precisely what you’re in for when reading American Vampire.

The (ongoing) series started in 2010 at Vertigo. Plotted by it’s creator Scott Snyder but, for the first 5 issues, co-written by none less than Stephen King. This would be his first time actually writing a comic book script. And he did an amazing job. The series would go on to win an Eisner for best new series.

The first 5 issues collected in this beautiful hardcover book are all divided in two parts: one showing Skinner Sweet’s origin and the other detailing Pearl’s. Written by King and Snyder, respectively. Pearl is a young aspiring actor in the early days of Hollywood, looking for he shot at stardom. Skinner Sweet on the other hand is a vicious and thieving thug on his way to his hanging. Both stories are equally well written and have the same style. That there are different writers for both stories is barely noticeable.

The story Snyder and King tell is truly interesting and different. A new type of vampire is born in Skinner Sweet, the American Vampire. This new species is different from the original Euro-vamps in almost every sense. The only commonalities are their equal lust for blood and their fangs. This new breed of vampire is no longer affected by the sun but rather by the moon. An interesting twist on the classic, and so often told, vampire story.

Equally good is the art by Rafael Albuquerque. His newly found style works great for this type of horror story. All character’s faces look very distinct and he does some amazing action sequences. But most importantly: he does (literally) killer vampires. The truly gruesome kind with big fangs, an open jaw and spider-like claws.

Although I fully enjoyed reading American Vampire I also had a small problem with it. I found the Skinner Sweet story a little difficult to follow. I had a hard time remembering who’s who and I believe the main reason for this is the switching between Pearl and Skinner’s story. I understand why they did it his way and it’s done very elegantly by having similar key moments happening in the same issue for both characters (e.g. their awakening as a vampire in chapter 2). Giving you the impression that they aren’t all that different, Pearl and Skinner. But I think it ended up somewhat hurting the story.

But none the less it’s a great read. Whether you’re into vampire or not (or just not the dreamy ones), I believe this is one that can appeal to everyone. I’m also looking forward to the next volume since the series makes some pretty big leaps in time. The next story arc takes places in the 1930’s and the third one during WW II. Which all seems really interesting. Snyder is rapidly becoming one of my favorite current writers. What he’s doing with Swamp Thing and Batman is very interesting and has me exited every month.

I rate it: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Print: Hardcover, 200p, 5/5

American Vampire book 1

“To save the world he sacrificed his life.
(And to sell issues)”
— Comic book men

Review: Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One

By: Frank Millers and David Mazzucchelli

Back in the 1987, when Miller was still a genius and had just finished the highly acclaimed “The Dark Knight Returns” story, he wrote this prequel. And honestly, I like this one better. But I’ll get into that later.

Year One tells the story, at the title suggests, of Bruce Wayne first years as Batman. But just as much, or maybe even more so, it’s the first year that Gordon spends at the Gotham City PD. Batman isn’t even in this all that much. So if you’re looking for lots of Bat-action you’re in the wrong place. What you do get is the story of Gordon struggling with the corruption in the police department and his wife’s pregnancy. Mean while Bruce is returning to Gotham after spending 12 years outside the city and discovers that his city is overrun by crime and depression. As both struggle against their inner demons they fight for the good that’s left of Gotham.

The story is told beautifully through picture and text. We get compelling and insightful views of what’s going on in our two hero’s heads through narration and the gorgeous Mazzucchelli art to set the mood. And the mood is dark and gritty like the art.

Batman: Year One is short and simple but that’s far from a bad thing. Miller delivers a satisfying and complete story that’ll have you on the edge of your seat the entire time. And that’s exactly why I prefer this one over “The Dark Knight” and I believe this is probably Miller’s best work to date. Instead of a messy, convoluted story that tries to deconstruct a hero you get a clear and crisp book that elegantly builds two.

It’s the perfect introduction to Batman and Gordon, the two beacons of hope in a city of darkness.

Oh, and there’s a animated movie adaptation that’s very good. Check that out as well!

I rate it: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Art: 5/5 
Print: TPB, 144p, 3/5


Review: Asterios Polyp

Asterios Polyp

by David Mazzucchelli

If you know the name David Mazzucchelli from anything other than this book, chances are you know him from his collaborations with Frank Millers. Most prominently in Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again. Two great books (that I’ll hopefully review in the future) but stand no comparison to the magnum opus that is Asterios Polyp. A real masterpiece that will amaze any fan of the medium with its style and many, many layers.

Released in 2009 as an original graphic novel it was received tremendously well. Not only did it win three Harvey awards in the following year, but it also won three Eisner awards. Including best new graphic album and best writer/artist. How’s that for a reason to go read it right now?

Asterios Polyp is, simply put, the tale of a man struggling with himself and coming to terms with his own flaws and those of others. The story is told over two main timelines, the one in the past is narrated by Asterios’ dead twin, Ignazio, who died at birth. After which Asterios never felt quite whole. As if a piece of himself got lost. 

I’ve never loved and disliked a character as much as I do Asterios. He is egotistical, self-absorbed and has no eyes for anyone else. Yet through his struggles you can’t help but sympathize with him and root for him. Let it be an asset to Mazzucchelli’s storytelling that you will stick with this unloveable character for 344 pages and love every minute of it.

And that’s where the real beauty of this book lays; in the storytelling. Mazzucchelli proves himself to be a true master of the medium. He plays with things that would seem trite if used by others, like the different fonts for each character. And he does these things seemingly without effort and with great elegance. From the different drawing styles to the use of color, everything in Asterios Polyp has meaning and purpose. And that’s not even mentioning all the references and symbolism in the written text. These elements make this book very re-readable and rewarding.

I could keep going on and on for pages but I’m a sucker for these type of formalist books with numerous layers. If you consider yourself a fan of comic books and comic book storytelling you should definitely take a look at Asterios Polyp. The whole package is superb. It won’t let you down, I guarantee. 

(And a tip, have some annotations by your side when you read it the second time. Really worth it!)

Please check out a preview here.

I rate it: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Art: 5/5
Print: hardback, 344p 5/5

Asterios Polyp cover

Review: Daytripper


Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá

In 2010, twin brothers, Fábio en Gabriel started their series Daytripper for Vertigo (DC). The series started in February and ran until November, wrapping up the series the way the creators intended. In 2011 the collected volume appeared and Daytripper received all the recognition it deserves. The book won both a Harvey and Eisner award and topped the New York Times Bestsellers chart for weeks.  A beautiful story of death but, more importantly, about love and life. A truly inspiring book that’ll never leave my shelf or my heart.

Brás is a Brazilian author living in San Paolo. He’s an obituary writer for a popular newspaper and spends his working hours writing about death. We wants to step into his fathers footsteps and become a great writer but he’s unsure of his talent. He’s always felt a overshadowed by his father’s success. An important source of encouragement through the years has been his dear friend Jorgé, whom he met in college.

The beautifully designed and textured characters give the story it’s weight. Visually Brás and his family and friends age naturally and you’re never left wondering who’s who without the use of name tags or anything as ugly. At the same time their personality’s all evolve as they mature. People loose their youthful foolishness and naïvety but achieve so much wisdom as they age. Something often lost in comics.

I’ll try not to spoil too much of the story because realizing what this book was like after being completely bewildered by the first two issues really payed off for me. Suffice to say that Gabriel and Fabio tell the story of a man’s life in a very unique way that could only be done this well through comics. To me it’s a milestone.

Please check out a preview here.

I rate it:
Story: 5/5
Art: 5/5
Print: paperback, 247p 4/5
Overall: 5/5