The world of American Vampire is a vast place. Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have created a series that has reached far more places and time periods than one would have thought when the comic first began. Now, American Vampire Anthology touches new areas with a group of collaborators who explore the roots of the vampire Skinner Sweet's heritage. These are stories that have been hinted at but never experienced, ideas that are connected to the series' origins but never told. Snyder and Albuquerque tag along for a framing story, but mostly they let their guests do all of the work.
American Vampire Anthology #1 is a thick comic full of work from contributors to the AV field. Many are successful writers and artists who took time off from their own long-running series to immerse themselves in the thick of Skinner Sweet's evolution. It must have been difficult to craft these stories out of the illustrious plot that Snyder has already created; there are so many jumps in time that sometimes it's hard to keep track of Skinner Sweet's movements, but this anthology has done a great job of keeping everything fairly connected with AV's timeline.
There are eight stories in here from contributing writers and artists, plus the framing story from Snyder and Albuquerque. Notable names include Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, and Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, just to cite a few. Though it's difficult to touch on all of the stories, I'll do my best to include some of the most impressive.
"Lost Colony" by Jason Aaron and Declan Shalvey is one of them, about a tribe of Chowanoke that stumble upon a vampire village near their land. At first they're attacked by the vamps, but soon they figure out that stakes and sunlight can kill them and reclaim their home territory. It's a bloody story of the past, more rooted in truth than the fictional depiction of the vampires would suggest.
Another comes from Lemire and Fawkes with a witty play called "Canadian Vampire." Set in the wintry Canadian mountains, a hunted known as Jack Warnhammer stands up for a Native American boy after a pack of vampires attack. It's a short, simple story, but one with fantastic artwork from Fawkes.
Perhaps the best story in this collection is "Essence of Life" from Gail Simone and Tula Lotay. This story loops around to the beginning of American Vampire by focusing on Pearl's friend Hattie to show how this whole vampire mess started. Hattie tries to break into the Hollywood biz by doing the dirty with a director, only to find out that she sold herself out for nothing. Finally, in a display of carnage she gets her revenge. It's a visceral story with poignancy, and it's probably the most successful of the bunch at tying in specifically to the series' plot.
Snyder's framing story is a little too simplified for my taste, merely setting up the anthology by having Skinner Sweet remark on all of the stories people tell about him. It could have used a couple more pages and a few more events, although for its purpose in the issue it works just fine. Some of the shorter stories in this anthology are overshadowed by the ones noted above; "Last Night" feels the most out-of-place as an American Vampire tale.
But for the most part the guest contributors bite right into Snyder's long-running series with stories that bulk up the backstory of American Vampire. As an anthology released right before Halloween, you'd do well to pick this up if you enjoy the series; newbies can definitely get into it too, but this is a release best savored by veterans because of its references to previous American Vampire plots.
Thanks to Vertigo for providing review copy.