American Gods Shadows is a strange incarnation of the story. It is based on the 2001 novel written by the famous comics writer Neil Gaiman. Dark Horse is putting out the books to align with the TV series on Starz that debuts later this month.
I am trying not to be spoiler-y, but it is hard when I’ve read the book so long ago and expect everyone to be familiar with the story.
Shadow is a fresh out of jail. He was sprung early on the news that his wife has died. On the way home, he runs into Mr. Wednesday who is looking to hire an… let’s say jack of all trades: driver, gofer, and occasional muscle. Shadow isn’t interested because he has a job lined up or had. Turns out that the same accident that killed his wife, also took out his best friend and potential boss. Shadow agrees to work for Wednesday and the deal is sealed with three drinks of mead and a fight with the biggest leprechaun ever seen in or out of Ireland.
Shadow finds himself kidnapped on his way home from the funeral by a strange fat man in a limo who smells like an electrical fire and want Shadow to deliver a warning to Mr. Wednesday.
I really love the novel and am interested in how it is being translated into comic. In that sense it really lives or dies on the art. P. Craig Russell’s (Love Is Love, Hellboy, Elric) art is excellent but in some ways off. The biggest issue I have is with Mr. Wednesday. In the book, Wednesday is a mystery. He is menacing and his presence can be threatening. But at times, he is also a forgetful old man. Here he seems to be a friendly middle-aged dude friendly and all smiles. You don’t trust him, but you aren’t threatened by him either.
Another part of the problem is that comics are the worst medium to show the small cons that Wednesday is always playing. It is easy to describe in a book or display in a TV show, but they tend to lie static on the page of the comic.
This is not to say that Russell’s art is bad, it is good throughout most of the story, but it is just lacking that spark of something. And in this case, where the art is really the motive to drive someone to continue to pick up the next issue, that can be a problem.
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Script: P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton