American Vampire #30
American Vampire provides something I’ve been waiting for for 30 issues, but at what cost?
What I’m talking about is Pearl+Sweet. From the first issue of American Vampire, there have been subtle references to not only sexual attraction, but also honest, romantic attraction between these two characters. Every now and then, we would get to see abbreviated lapses in Pearl Jones’ hate for Skinner Sweet, filled with lusty looks and dirty talk, but would always come to a sudden stop when Pearl came to her senses and went back to wanting to murder Sweet. There was no clearer example of this than when the two were on the island of Taipan and shared a passionate kiss, followed immediately by Pearl stabbing Sweet through the heart with an object made of the American Vampire’s only known weakness. And then the island was practically destroyed by an airstrike, with Pearl leaving Sweet both stabbed and blown up. This is just one example of the romantic tension between the series’ two protagonists, and it was all building up to the events of this issue.
In the current story arc, Pearl and Skinner are on a mission to uncover and destroy members of a large vampire coven in Hollywood, tracing back to events that occurred in the first story arc of the series. The first 6 issues were my favorites, so it was nice to return to the old-school-Hollywood scene to see more actors, directors and producers interacting with vampires. The major theme behind this issue was the history between Pearl and her husband Henry Preston, and it addressed some noteworthy issues about a vampire-human relationship. These issues have been dealt with before, but usually end with one character or the other dismissing any doubts with the promise of true love for the other. We have seen both partners in this relationship show serious signs of discomfort in the relationship, but it seems that they are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of their partner’s feelings.
Henry has been in intensive care recovering from a near-lethal vampire bite that occurred several issues ago while Pearl and Sweet go after their Carpathian vampire targets. #30 beings with a flashback to Pearl and Henry’s cabin days, and tells the story of Henry’s proposal. This flashback provides a more visceral feeling to the audience when we finally see Pearl and Sweet consummating their physical relationship after having a deeply emotional talk about Pearl’s feelings for Henry and why she’s been acting so irrationally lately. Then the real punch occurs when we finally see Henry out of bed asking for Pearl on the last page.
The relationship between Pearl and Sweet is the kind that you hate to root for, but I can honestly say that I’ve waited for this since issue #1. These two characters seem to be matched perfectly, but Pearl prefers to obey her human side rather than her vampire instincts, and stays with Henry, the obviously “safe” choice. In my opinion, as Henry began to grow older, it seems that the only reason the couple stays together is because neither of them have it in them to leave the other, because they have too much respect for the other one’s feelings. But lately we’ve seen a darker side on Pearl, one that Sweet never refuses to acknowledge given the chance. Pearl is going down the dark road of the ruthless killer and she is telling herself that she is doing it because she would do anything to save her husband’s life. But what’s actually happening is that the more she behaves like a vampire, the more she loses touch with her humanity–the only part of her that is keeping her in love with her husband.
Duality has always been an important theme in American Vampire, and I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of “The Blacklist” story arc.