Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel is coming to Starz as a TV series, but beforehand, Dark Horse has decided to release an ongoing comic book version of the novel entitled “American Gods: Shadows.”
Shadow Moon has just gotten out of jail. His wife has died, and he is lost without her. On the plane ride home, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job as a bodyguard of sorts. Now, Shadow is thrust into a dangerous and supernatural world where a war between old and new Gods is brewing.
I might be a tad biased when I say that Neil Gaiman’s writing is fantastic. Being a longtime fan of Gaiman’s work, I was beyond excited to read this issue—and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Gaimain’s writing has a certain poetic style about it. The pacing is pretty fast, but is slowed down for detail and exploration when an element of the story really contributes to the plot. His dialogue is convincing and natural, keeping the story moving along at a steady pace and creating a genuinely fantastical/mysterious tone.
There is some great characterization in the beginning of this issue. We get to learn quite a bit about Shadow, especially as an inmate. He is optimistic in prison. He keeps to himself, works out, learns coin tricks, and makes plans for after his release. We also get to see some of his fellow inmates and guards. The language used is very informal, which is extremely believable, given the way that the prison system is portrayed to the general public.
There is also a certain stream-of-consciousness type of writing that comes into play here. For example, when Mr. Wednesday offers Shadow a job on the plane, the caption boxes tell us that Shadow thinks of a chimp that he saw on a TV special once. Not only does this show us how Shadow thinks, but it provides a great insight into what kind of character Mr. Wednesday is. We can expect some seriously dark tones from him, and I am so ready to see them.
P. Craig Russell’s script and layouts do justice to the material and, although this issue is a bit text-heavy, it reads really, really well. He has adapted Gaiman’s work before, so it’s no surprise that this issue turned out as well as it did. Letterer Rick Parker does an awesome job of keeping everything neat, tidy, and readable in terms of where the eye moves on the page. A lot of the work falls onto artist Scott Hampton, though. The artwork is realistic but has a small abstract element to it. The characters are really expressive, and there are some really intricate details in facial features, like Shadow’s eyes when he speaks about his crime.
The ending of this issue is bound to catch your attention. It stands out from the rest of the issue in terms of content and artwork. But be warned: it is super graphic—really awesome and almost profound, but seriously graphic. This is a really enthralling read, but there’s a lot more to pay attention to than just the story. The small details are what make this issue so perfect. Keep reading and keep up with all upcoming 27 issues. For any fan of horror, action, crime, and/or Gaiman himself, this is a must-read series.
Written by: Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by: Scott Hampton