There’s a feeling in your stomach when you know things aren’t going to go your way. American Vampire #24, the third part of the “Death Race” story arc, creates that feeling in spades. Writer extraordinaire Scott Snyder does exactly what you don’t want him to do. He writes the hero in this arc so well that you like him, you root for him and you want to see him take down the bitch ass vampire who killed his family.
Here’s the rub. The villain our hero is going up against has been the main focus of the series since it debuted. Who is our hero? That’d be Travis, a 50s-style greaser looking to lay a serious slap down on Skinner Sweet, the blood sucker who wiped out his whole family. Snyder frames the story as if that might happen. Travis is not just a vampire killer, he is the vampire killer, the one a mysterious agency trained and sent out to rid the world of the undead. Travis has the right attitude and the right moves; he’s also been trained. This should be a cakewalk. That brings us back to the point of who Skinner Sweet is.
American Vampire #24 is the drag race from hell, the war between Travis and Skinner to settle an age-old score. The entire issue is movement, it never lets up. Cars crash, hero and villain battle on the hoods of their vehicles moving at top speeds. You get a real sense of the danger happening here, especially for Travis who lacks the whole “undead” angle. Snyder uses flashbacks and the taunts of Skinner to really set Travis up as the one we root for. You root for this guy, out loud; you want him to cut this vampire prick in half. Snyder taps into the very real hatred of bullies to turn you against Skinner. The issue ends on cliffhanger, though one we subconsciously know the result of.
It’s a golden rule in comics that the main focus of any story doesn’t really die; no matter how high the odds are stacked. American Vampire without Skinner Sweet, to quote Oran "Juice" Jones, would be like cornflakes without the milk. In our hearts, we know that Travis won’t kill Skinner Sweet, but that’s not really the point. Snyder has created so much tension around Travis that we’re invested in his story regardless of how it ends up. In lesser hands, this whole story would have fallen apart due to lack of interest. We know Travis will lose, so why bother? With Snyder at the helm the story becomes the thing we cling to. We have to know how it ends, there’s just no other option.
Rafael Albuquerque. Really? Fuck this guy. What gives him the right to be so incredibly good at what he does? The art in American Vampire #24 is flawless. Rafael delivers, from panel to panel, a visceral feeling of speed. The secret is how he injects movement into everything going on, not just the obvious. Close up shots of character’s faces have motion, cut away shots of cars have motion. Everything in this issue is flying past you at top speed. There’s a centerfold in American Vampire #24 that forced me to drop comic and walk around the block for a minute. It’s that good. Once again, the unstoppable punch of Scott Snyder’s writing and Rafael Albuquerque’s art raises the bar by which all other comics should be measured.
CraveOnline Rating: 9/10 (4.50 Story, 4.50 Art)