American Gods: Shadows #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
With the upcoming TV adaptation coming our way, it was only a matter of time until someone decided to adapt Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in comic book form. Picking up the adaptation torch is Dark Horse Comics, who’ve had a long relationship with Gaiman’s work in the past. With longtime Gaiman collaborator P Craig Russell and artist Scott Hampton pitching in, American Gods: Shadows is a good adaptation for those who have never read the original novel before, but if you have, there’s not a lot of new things brought to the table.
Shadow Moon is on the tail end of a jail sentence. The idea of returning home to his wife and restarting his life has dominated his thoughts for the last 3 years he’s been in prison. But just days before he’s set to be released, Moon receives some tragic news, leaving him extremely lost, until he finds Mr. Wednesday, who’s offering a job for Shadow Moon, and will reveal things about our world that Moon could never imagine.
Shadows is one of the more straight-forward adaptations of a book I’ve ever seen. Using excerpts from Gaiman’s book as the caption boxes, Russell is able to create a comic that is really faithful to the original story. This was helpful for me, as I read American Gods about a decade ago and remember only snippets of it, but for die hard Gaiman maniacs it might make for a bit of a boring read. Not only that, but the opening page that sets up the book tells you exactly what happens before you even read the issue, and it’s much more spoilery than my description above.
Scott Hampton has a loose style that works well for the prison scenes in Shadows, but when he needs to showcase busy airports or airplanes it falls flat. Hampton’s style is simply too loose to accurately portray these aspects of the story, and while his facial expressions look great on Shadow, his Mr. Wednesday barely shows any movement when he’s supposed to be charming or menacing.
American Gods: Shadows makes me wonder what audience Dark Horse is looking for with this adaptation. Are they trying to attract the die hard Neil Gaiman fans that buy everything he writes, or are they trying to appeal to people who might want to check out the story before the show airs? Either way, this approach isn’t the best, as it ruins the main aspect of the story to new readers, and runs the risk of being too boring for those that have read it before. If you’ve never read the original story before, you’re honestly better off just picking up the novel.