Reviews by eknapp
Great concept. Awful execution.
The idea is terrific, an Old West tale about six magical pistols, each with a unique power. Three are just deadly: they strike like a cannon shell, spread the very flames of Perdition, and kill by spreading a flesh-rotting disease. The fourth can call up the spirits of those it has shot down. The fifth grants it's bearer immortality (I was surprised that this wasn't THE gun, the focus of the series). The final gun, the eponymous Sixth Gun, gives visions, knowledge of current and future events. There are echoes of Fred Saberhagen's Books of the Swords here.

This all comes wrapped in a thin story about a pair of treasure-hunters pulling an innocent young woman into a fight against an evil undead Confederate general and his minions.

The art is serviceable, if not particularly great. The character illustrations are glaringly two-dimensional, often reminding me of old 60s newspaper comic strips.

I wonder if I'd appreciate the art more if it weren't for the writing. The narration is straightforward and dull: first this happens, then this happens, then this happens... The Old Westy dialogue is stilted and forced, painful to read. There are bad sound effects printed in the panels, like in the Adam West Batman TV show. Kapow. K-blam. Wh-thump. B-doom. Just, ugh. And one of the henchmen actually goes by the name Bloodthirsty Bill. *rolls eyes*

Plus-one star for concept. But while I have volume 2 checked out from the library, I'll be returning it unread.
A great story, poorly written.
In the first story, Skinner, Pearl, and Henry find themselves in WWII Taipan on a mission for the Vassals of the Morning Star. A new vampire species is discovered. Explosions and soul-searching ensue. This was the better of the two story arcs.

The second one finds Felicia and Cash posing as Nazi sympathizers to infiltrate the Reich's vampire soldier division and extract a scientist who may or may not have discovered a cure. Explosions and soul-searching ensue, as do a fair number of trite one-liners and cliched action-movie conventions.

I like where the series is going, humanity's struggle against vampires in all their varied forms, across the landscape of American history. So promising. But I hope the eye-roll-inspiring dialogue of the WWII spy story arc is not a sign of things to come.
Read it.
Volume 1 tells two parallel stories. First--written by none other than Stephen King--is the tale of Skinner Sweet, an 1880s Western outlaw who has unknowingly stolen from a cabal of Old World vampires; Sweet is accidentally turned in the ensuing hunt and becomes a major thorn in the side of the monied Eurovamps. Told concurrently by Scott Snyder is the story of Pearl, a feisty 1920s wannabe-actress who gets turned by Sweet after being eaten and disposed of by the ubiquitous Old World vampires.

After flipping through AV at a bookstore, I initially decided to pass on reading it. I think it was the cheesy action-movie one-liners that turned me off. A review convinced me to give it another shot, and while American Vampire won't make my all-time-greats list, I'm still glad I did. (I almost walked away again when Stephen King admitted in his intro that his first draft included THOUGHT BALLOONS.)

I really dig Rafael Albuquerque's illustrations. I'm not sure how to describe it...maybe a cross between Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night except not as smeary) and my man Sean Phillips. The vamps are lean, pointy, and scary. The background colors do a great job establishing a mood and setting for each frame. Win.

The dialogue is fine, except when there's fighting. The aforementioned cheesy action-movie one-liners didn't get any better in context. The characters are reasonably well-written when they're not channeling Stallone/Schwarzenegger. Sweet is an utter bastard and easy to hate; Pearl is sympathetic and easy to root for. The supporting cast is similarly good.

AV takes a fairly novel (to my knowledge, anyway) approach to the genre: when the Eurovamps accidentally turn Sweet, he comes back as a new type of vampire, a daywalker with unknown weaknesses. The two camps jockey for power over decades, which sets the stage for a number of promising American historical settings in upcoming volumes. Should be fun.
Super meh.
Book 3 of the Newsflesh trilogy. It gets more and more YA with each book.

Each chapter begins with posts from the characters news blogs; they try way too hard to sound witty or profound. It's cringeworthy.

Shaun continues to talk incessantly about how insane he's becoming. "My time is running out! Drama!" Dumb. Not believable. I think Grant set the first book up well--specifically I mean Shaun and George's extreme codependence--but it's hard to buy that insanity is so predictable and STABLE.

The epidemiological science continued to ring more or less true, and that's about the best thing I can say for Blackout. It's not the worst book I've read in the last two years, but I don't recommend it even for zombie fans.
An unlikely love story.
A young woman is raped and murdered, and it is widely believed that her boyfriend Ig not only did it but got away with it. On the anniversary of her death Ig wakes up with horns growing out of his forehead, and some strange new abilities. of which is that people just start telling him things about themselves. Horrible things. (One point that bothered me: Why is EVERYONE in Hill's world a complete douchebag? Hill has a really low opinion of humanity. Not one reasonably benevolent person exists. It makes me wonder what goes on inside HIS head.)

Anyways, Horns starts out like a murder mystery. It isn't. Just as I was smugly patting myself on the back for determining the mostly likely perpetrator, he's revealed. Thud.

So what is Horns about then? It's primarily the story of Ig's transformation from man to demon, and what it means to be a (the?) devil. He's kind of a hero and sin isn't so has its place, serves a valuable function. Furthermore, the bad guy had some subtle goddish qualities (he fixes things, he "turns his life around", he spearheads a Christian congressman's campaign...) I felt vaguely blasphemous reading this.

Horns also turned out to be a love story, much to my surprise. And a good one. I don't usually go in for love stories so I was shocked at how much I found myself digging that aspect of the story.

The ending felt kind of lackluster...justice unsatisfyingly served, plot threads more or less wrapped up. Not bad, not good. About what you'd expect from a King progeny. But the first 43 chapters made up for it; good read.

Idle note: This is the 2nd Joe Hill story I've read where the villain suffered brain trauma as a child (The Cape being the first). Hill seems to believe that evil is made, not born.