Advanced Review: American Gods #1

Remember that episode of Star Trek, where the landing party beam down and meet with Apollo then all sorts of shenanigans occur, with Spock being sent away because he looks like Pan and for once Captain Kirk not getting the girl?  The basic premise of the episode, the Greek gods of old needing worshipers to power their own existence, had been expanding on in and given the old “Gaiman” twist in the Hugo and Nebula Award winning book, American Gods.  Never ones to miss out on a cross market media/publishing event, Dark Horse Comics reunite creator/writer Neil Gaiman with one-time The Sandman collaborator P. Craig Russell for the comic book adaptation.

Shadow Moon is a convict, keeping himself too himself through his long stretch of incarceration, waiting for the day he can get back to his gorgeous wife, who has been waiting for his return.  Theirs, seems the love of a lifetime and her love fulfils, satisfies and sustains him through this barren spell.  However tragedy strikes with her death in a car accident, meaning that Shadow is released from prison a couple of days early.  Alone, he completes his trek to what would have been a happy homecoming, albeit harassed by the mysterious Mr Wednesday who seems to have a job for Shadow, a job for him alone for which Mr Wednesday will not accept a no!

Creator/writer Neil Gaiman is a writer par excellence having spent time on The Sandman and How to Talk to Girls at Parties to name just two of his much-loved books.  With this issue however, for many fans it will be a re-treading of steps already taken, albeit steps that may have been originally taken around 15 years ago.  Whilst there can be some fun in doing that, the book may be better suited to those that prefer the mix of words and pictures of the comic book over the potentially dense heavy  writing of the novel.  Not having read the book, I am unsure of how faithful an adaptation this comic is.  The writing is as I would expect from someone of Gaiman’s talent; the story meanders in part in a manner to get the reader acquainted to Shadow with only a jarring epilogue of sorts hinting at the at the strange godly world that awaits our hero and his “knows-more-than-he-is-letting-on” companion.

P. Craig Russell provides script and layouts for Scott Hampton to lay over the art.  Between the pair, the book has just enough detail to show the world that Shadow lives in, both in and out of prison.  In places there is a blandness, maybe blankness even to some characters, that I would like to think was done on purpose as it alludes to a major them of the whole story.  Colors are drab with the exception of Shadow’s wife; the contrast showing that she was the brightest part of his world.  For the epilogue, Russell is joined by Lovern Kindzierski.  Here, the art takes on a more curvaceous, if not even a fanciful style.  At times the dialogue here is wordy and cumbersome but there is a necessity to it.

All in all, this book is an enjoyable read, whether you view it as a re-imagining of the original or are totally new to American Gods.  Oh, and by the way, that episode of Star Trek was called “Who Mourns For Adonais?”

Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 4 Stars
Colors – 4 Stars

Writer: Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton
Colorist: Scott Hampton
Cover Artist: David Mack

David Mack Variant Cover:

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