I almost gave this 4 stars but felt too guilty to go through with it. I'm not a comic book reader, not really. I'm sure some thinking and so on goes into creating something like this, but I just couldn't give it the same number of stars as what I'd last read, a speculative novel hundreds of pages long.
Maybe it deserves 4 stars though. I've read The Adventures of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Those books include a lot of story telling through illustrations. At any one time though, those books stick with either text or illustration to tell the story, which is different than a comic book such as American Vampire, which places dialogue over the illustrations.
I have to say, sometimes I felt like an inexperienced comic book reader. Sometimes I wasn't sure which block of dialogue to read first or next. If I had been at work, I would have considered contacting tech support.
I don't know if it is a common technique, but sometimes the illustrations did not match the words that were on the page. In other words, the illustrations showed one event while the words transcribed thoughts or dialogue from something else. I liked that, though I considered contacting tech support. I also was impressed with some of the cuts from one scene or thing to another. Some cuts were very effective emotionally and/or for laughs.
I haven't read a lot of vampire stories. I thought this was interesting but am used to reading novels, which go into more depth. The two worlds created and linked here (vampires in Wild West, vampires in 1920s Hollywood) were intriguing, especially in the midst of all the action, but I felt like it only whet my appetite, that I preferred more detail and world building, which just did not happen in this format. Same with the characters. They were interesting, but were not rounded out enough to fully satisfy me.
I suppose conveying everything through dialogue and illustration is a very challenging restriction that is similar to what poets do when meeting the requirements of a specific poetic form. Comic book creators and enthusiasts are probably very aware of the possibilities, of what has been done, and what is fresh. I'm willing to believe there's a learning curve involved.
I can't really say that the writing/dialogue impressed me particularly. It was not distinctive enough for me to identify without reading the credit what Snyder had penned and what King had penned. Some of the events and bits of dialogue were cliched enough for me to be surprised that this story was getting so much hype, though I thought most of it was fun. I also suspected some of that cliche might just be tropes that many comic book readers expect to see, like any genre has characteristics.
So I don't have the knowledge to judge this book's originality or execution as a comic, but I thought the illustrator did a great job. That said, I felt hemmed in a bit. I guess I'm addicted to doing my own visualizing when I read. Somehow maybe the Selznick books work better for me because when one "reads" the illustrations there are no words and the reader has to imagine the story and when there are words there are no illustrations and one must visualize. As I read American Vampire, I started thinking that I might be able to satisfy my desire to do my own visualizing by using the words and illustrations to imagine other senses, like sound and smell, but that didn't seem practical. It was time to turn the page, not time to figure out what smells the characters might have been experiencing. Besides, there was a lot of decaying flesh and other unsavory smells to "visualize" if I went that route.
I guess I'll add that 4th star now. I don't know when I'll get around to it but I probably will pick up Volume 2.