Kate’s Review: “American Vampire: Volume 5”

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Book: “American Vampire: Volume 5” by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Ill.), & Dustin Nguyen (Ill.)

Publication Info: Vertigo, March 2013

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: In the first story, series mainstays Skinner Sweet, Pearl and company return to Hollywood in the ’50s during the Red Scare. In a time where America was on the lookout for the next Communist threat, was the real danger something far more insidious? A major turning point in American Vampire lore begins here!

In the second tale, familiar face and vampire hunter Felicia Book is “retired” from vampire hunting when she gets called back into action to track down and kill the most powerful vampire of all time. The hunt takes our heroes through post-war Europe, behind the Iron Curtain and into the heart of Russia to track this deadly enemy

Writer Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing) and artist Rafael Albuquerque bring together even more threads to the complex tapestry that is the world of American Vampire.

Review: When it came time to pick up “American Vampire: Volume 5” for this re-read, I remembered that I liked this volume a lot the first time I read it, but didn’t really remember why. So I was wondering if taking it on again almost ten years later was going to be a different experience, as lord knows I’ve already had some perspective shifts in the first four volumes. But almost immediately upon jumping in I realized that there was a reason I liked this volume so much, and it was pretty evident that was going to be the case once again.

Our first big story is set in 1950s Europe, with Felicia Book and her son Gus (both living more normal lives due to the supposed ‘cure’ for vampirism she got at the end of her last major arc) spending their time in France. When Felicia is approached by her former VMS boss Hobbes asking her to help the group track down a stolen Dracula (yep, THAT Dracula, the long dormant leader of the Carpathian vampires) she gets pulled back into a job she left behind because Gus is now being compelled by the notorious Count. Felicia continues to be my favorite character in this series, and I loved seeing her fight tooth and nail to keep her son safe, while also feeling lots of resentment about being pulled back into the Vassals at behest of her old friend and boss. I also think that Snyder did a good job of bringing in Dracula without making it hokey or, frankly, stupid. It’s certainly not the first time a modern vampire story has brought Dracula into the fold, but it’s a successful way to bring him in because it feels unique but also rooted in the source material, but also doesn’t overwhelm. Watching Felicia, Hobbes, Gus, and other unlikely allies track down Dracula in ways that mirror the way Dracula is tracked down in the original novel is just fun (I especially like the way that they bring in a Renfield character as well as substituting Soviet soldiers for glamored peasantry), and it all leads to a significant shift in Felicia’s and Gus’s storyline. I’m always happy to spend time with Felicia and Gus, and this really puts them at the forefront of their lovely mother/son relationship.

The other big story is back in the U.S. and has Pearl and Skinner (gag) at the forefront, and brings them back to her origins as an American Vampire in Hollywood. Now it’s the 1950s and Hollywood is undergoing the Red Scare, and Pearl and Sweet are recruited to investigate studio execs and other power players who may be harboring vampires. Pearl, however, is also contending with her husband Henry’s coma, as his attack at the end of her last arc has left her worried that she’s going to lose him. The relationship between Pearl and the absolutely sweet and wonderful (but mortal) Henry has been such a mainstay in this series, but time has been aging Henry while Pearl has stayed youthful, and his mortality is oh so very clear right now. I have always loved Pearl and Henry, and as the series has gone on Snyder has subtly addressed the elephant in the room of how she will ultimately have to say goodbye just due to the reality of their situation. I couldn’t give less of a fuck about how Skinner fits into all of this, though I do admit that I DO enjoy seeing a sire and his fledgling team up, especially after she believed she killed him during WWII. On my first read of this I remember really resenting the fact that Skinner is actually kind of tolerable in this arc, but because it’s mostly due to Pearl and their connection I guess I’m going to allow it. That said, he’s still so static and boring in his malevolence. It was just nice seeing Pearl be able to deal with the baggage there at least a little bit, while also revisiting the trauma that started it all back in Hollywood and the cesspit it is. The women continue to be the shining stars of the series, and, like Felicia, Pearl finds herself at a crossroads by the end of this volume. But hers is far more melancholy.

This was the best volume yet. Snyder both brings things to proper ends, but also opens new doors with more possibilities on the horizon. Keep Pearl and Felicia in the spotlight, “American Vampire”. They continue to be amazing in their complexity and resilience.

Rating 9: The strongest volume yet, with many things coming to conclusions and other things just beginning.

Reader’s Advisory:

“American Vampire: Volume 5” is included on the Goodreads lists “Vertigo Titles: Must Read Comic Books A-E”, and “Best Adult Vampire Books”.

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