Lord Of Nightmares #2, the third comic release this week for writer Scott Snyder, is moving along a great story while still dragging a heavy stone. Part of the reason I never got into the whole vampire craze, besides not being a teenage girl, is that I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula. To me, it is the quintessential vampire story and something that stands outside the craze it created. Lord Of Nightmares attempts to fold Dracula into the American Vampire legacy, which is doesn’t need to do. This story stands on its own.
Agent Hobbes, a valued member of the Vassals Of The Morning Star and woefully underused character in American Vampire, is in a bit of a pickle. In issue 1, the asshole American Tommy Glass informed Hobbes that the Vassals would be losing one of the most important Vampires in the history of the species. The brash American against the more reserved British Hobbes was a nice set up for the story. A game of chess, between a master and an upstart with the fate of the world in the balance.
In the opening pages of Lord Of Nightmares 2, Hobbes has approached agent Felicia Book, another character that could use more attention. Book has stepped out of the Vassals to care for Gus, the vampire child of deceased agent Cash McCogan. Gus has been cured of being a Vampire and Book is trying to show him a normal life. Agent Hobbes showing up with the tale of a stolen prime vampire isn’t helping matters at all. It can’t be helped though, Hobbes is really up against it with this missing vampire.
Allow me to contextualize the vampire in question. First off, he’s a prime vampire, the first of his bloodline and a creator of a species. Second, he’s a total mystery, there is no historical record of who he was before infection. All that is known is that this vampire was born with the infection and then at some point embraced it. From their he worked silently, creating thousands of vampires within a bloodline that was not deemed threatening by the Vassals and thus left alone.
Then this prime vampire snapped and began using his bloodline to wage war on all other vampires. Apparently this one descendant of the dark not only feeds but also exudes his will to control any descendant of his bloodline within a thousand miles. In 1872 agents of the Vassal discovered his ship heading towards America and disabled it. They staked and slit the throat of this head vampire, keeping his still alive body same in a tomb beneath London Tower Bridge.
Now it appears Tommy Glass has not only stolen this body but also used a regurgitated rat (a very cool visual) to jump-start the vampire and begin his calling of his vampire brood. All those who are his descendants become drones to his cause, including Gus in a very nice cliffhanger ending. The story of Lord Of Nightmares works across the board except for the whole Dracula thing, which Snyder both tries to push and dismiss at the same time. For instance, Hobbes tells Book that an senile agent sent to live with a theater owner named Stoker was how the story of this vampire became Dracula. It’s a nice attempt to make something historical his own but Snyder doesn’t need it.
On the flipside, we get ideas of Dracula pushed on us. For example, Tommy Glass, who like to eat rats and vomit them back up, is almost referred to as Renfield by Hobbes before he is cut off. That’s just a little too cutesy. There’s also an eye-rolling moment where the power of this prime vampire is blamed for Jack The Ripper. Really? It feels beneath somebody with Snyder’s gifts. Lord Of Nightmares would work just as well without tying into Dracula.
Dustin Nguyen steps up to art duties for this series and does a fine job. I won’t lie, I prefer Rafael Albuquerque, but Nguyen does a solid job. The pencils here change based on the context of the book. When it’s Hobbes and Book, the pencils are very comic book style. Nguyen lets Book’s features be softer while adding lines of grizzled wear and age to Hobbes. When the book switches to the historical tale of the prime vampire the art takes a textbook look. Then, when the horror comes, Nguyen lets loose some real gems.
There is a two-page spread detailing the war between vampires that is astounding. The fine art style, the use of color and tone to create a look of blood red war during sunset, really impactful stuff. Then there’s the regurgitated rat scene. That’s a doozy. Done in a more comic book style the simple shock and awe of it is priceless.
Lord Of Nightmares #2 really kicks the story into high gear. The army is awakening, kids are involved, and shit has gotten real. Outside of the easy plot devices, Snyder has once again managed to take a beaten-to-death idea and make it work.