I was reading a couple of new comics the other night and I noticed some fun coincidences between American Vampire #28 and Angel & Faith #11. Both issues were the start of a new story arc, "The Blacklist" for American Vampire and "Family Reunion" for Angel & Faith.
Both issues featured a return to Los Angeles, complete with a prominent shot of the Hollywood sign. That's not unusual. Angel was set in LA for all five seasons of the television show and for every previous comic book series before relocating to London for this one. American Vampire tends to jump around a bit more but it's located more stories in LA than anywhere else. LA also serves as the hometown of series regular Pearl Jones. But it is surprising that two series recently set elsewhere return to Los Angeles at the same time (the issues were released the same day).
Both issues featured a reunion of main characters. This is a little spoiler-y so skip ahead if you want. Angel & Faith reunites the title characters with former co-stars Connor and Gunn. Meanwhile, American Vampire puts Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones in an arc together for the first time since Ghost War (#14-18) and working together for the first time since the original arc (#1-5). More than that, The Blacklist brings in Calvin Poole from Ghost War and Nocturnes, making this the first story in which all three American Vampires work together. It was definitely cool to see all of these characters together- or together again- in the two titles.
Both issues also feature a vampire named Pearl. Pearl Jones has long been one of the stars of American Vampire. The first arc tells the story of her transformation into a vampire. In Angel & Faith, the vampire sisters Pearl and Nash are recent additions to the cast, taking up residence in the same house as Angel and Faith. They’re left behind to housesit- a responsibility they take very lightly.
However, despite the superficial similarities, these stories could not have been more different. For Angel & Faith, the reunion is joyous. Angel has a touching heart-to-heart with his son. And Faith is pleased to see old friends like Gunn. In addition, LA is only a stopping point along the way as the characters step into a demon dimension at the end of the issue.
For American Vampire, the reunion is taut. These vampires are cruel and vindictive. They don’t trust each other, even if they have common interests at the moment. In addition, the LA setting is central to the story as American Vampire examines the Hollywood blacklist and the red scare of the 1950s.
Writer Scott Snyder takes an unusual tack in telling the blacklist story. Most stories focus on showing the reader that the blacklist was a bad thing. They aim a spotlight at the suspicion, the intimidation and the unsubstantiated allegations of the red scare. That’s certainly the angle that the Angel television show took in its episode, “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?” American Vampire acknowledges that aspect, mentioning the fear that one will be ostracized for looking at a single communist pamphlet 20 years ago. But that’s not the direction in which Snyder takes this story. Instead, in American Vampire, the suspicions, accusations and fear are apparently justified. Hollywood isn’t a hotbed of communists; it’s a coven of vampires.
I doubt that Snyder is making a political point with this story. The narrative comments certainly indicate a negative view of McCarthyism. Instead, he’s telling a good old-fashioned monster story. Fear, suspicion and danger are the ingredients of a good vampire tale and upending the reader’s expectations are the spice of almost every good story.
The two stories have just started so it’s too early to know how well they’ll handle their different subjects. Yet the similarities were a lot of fun to notice even if the series are heading in different directions from here on out.