Whether you’ve read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or not, whether you’re waiting for the mini-series or didn’t even know it was a thing, you should definitely check out Dark Horse’s new comic book adaptation. If the first issue’s any indication, it’s going to be epic. See below for preview pages and a review of Neil Gaiman, Scott Hampton, and P. Craig Russell’s American Gods: Shadows #1.
I probably don’t need to say something blindingly obvious like “the writing’s excellent” because it’s Neil Gaiman for crying out loud. Neil’s writing is as comfortable as your favorite T-shirt and as disturbing as noises upstairs when you’re the only one home.
He was more paranoid than usual, and in prison, usual is VERY…Shadow had the jitters and the heebie-jeebies, a feeling deep in his stomach that something was entirely wrong…
The first issue is the last few weeks of Shadow’s time in prison, and it’s quietly told with so much detail, you don’t realize how much exposition you’re getting. We hear about his wife and his friends, what he’s looking forward to and how he keeps his head down, and it’s never too much information.
Shadow has a sense of dread hanging over him the whole time, and it just bleeds into every page, the idea that the quieter things get, the more awful it will be when things go bad.
(I sort of wish the book hadn’t given away the ugly surprise on the summary page, but at least there’s another, uglier surprise that you get to find out later.)
And you should know that when things go weird in this issue, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of how weird it’s going to get later.
Scott Hampton’s art blends with the story really well, with light, almost sketchy line work and a moody color palette: he stays with dark, warm reds and browns for most of the book, except when Shadow’s thinking of his wife, and then we get these little explosions of bright yellows and blues.
You can also feel P. Craig Russell’s influence in the layouts: he’s always had a knack for matching large text blocks with art in a way that you never feel like you’re reading too much, or that the panels are crowded. Everything flows extremely well.
There’s one last scene at the end of the book, and the art is absolutely and completely P. Craig Russell: gorgeous, rich, detailed, and very, very adult. American Gods as a whole is a grown-up book, but this last scene is most definitely not for kids. I loved it.