Of all the classic environments where you’ve seen vampire stories, I bet you’ve never read a story about Las Vegas vampires in the 1930s. There aren’t any gothic, brooding buildings for the creatures of the night, but the transforming landscape of the American West can be equally haunting. In a matter of a few years, Vegas went from a simple town to the local haven for the Hoover Dam workers. Brothels and casinos with garish neon lights invaded the streets. Unfortunately for the city and its new thriving industries, the main engineers of America’s greatest engineering project keep ending up drained of all their blood.
Though the series is called American Vampire, the “Devil in the Sand” storyline focuses on Chief Cashel McCogan, a lawman as tough and sharp as any from the old Westerns. McCogan is the hope of the city and our emotional connection to a town unknowingly invaded by vampires. He is a family man who clings to the moral right of the law against an evil larger than he can imagine, but McCogan is no backwoods dummy. His inspection techniques reveal a razor intellect. When new inspectors supposedly from the FBI join him in his current case, he quickly realizes that they are more than they seem.
Rafael Albuquerque’s illustrations of Nevada are truly fascinating. In several panels, Albuquerque simply uses solid colors in the background to convey the sense of mood, but heavy inks and a loose line reveal the ruggedness of the environment. The artist is also able to deliver architecturally detailed scenery as evidenced in the brothel and in a two-page spread of the Hoover Dam. Later, Albuquerque uses solid colors in place of violence, a surprising choice for a series so centered on the value of human blood.
The “Devil in the Sand” continues to be a gripping storyline squarely rooted in human drama. There is no one event that makes this issue a must have, but it is a building piece in a great four part story.