by Jai Hutchison
Writer: Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton
Letterer: Rick Parker
Colorist: Scott Hampton
Cover Artists: Glenn Fabry/David Mack/Dave McKean (Different Editions Available)
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: March 15th 2017
American Gods first hit our book stores back in 2001 and has since won the following awards: Hugo Award for Best SF/Fantasy Novel, Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and Nebula Award for Best Novel. In 2011 a special 10-year anniversary edition was published with an additional 12,000 words, which was the “author’s preferred text”. There are also two audio versions of the book; an unabridged version of the original text, read by George Guidall, and also a full cast audiobook version of the tenth anniversary edition with the author’s preferred text. But it doesn’t stop there. On April 30th this year, the TV network ‘Starz’ will be premiering the much-anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant fantasy novel. However, before we reached this exciting date, on March 15th 2017, Dark Horse Comics released the first instalment in the comic adaptation of the novel: ‘American Gods: Shadows #1’.
Adapting the American Gods story into the comic medium is P. Craig Russell, who has worked with Gaiman on many projects including Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and even as far back as The Sandman series. Likewise, the artist on this project Scott Hampton has also worked with Neil Gaiman previously, also on The Graveyard Book and on Books of Magic. So we can make a safe assumption that this comic book series is in good hands.
I’ve read American Gods a few times; it’s one of my favourite Gaiman novels, and although I was pretty thrilled that it was being adapted to a comic, I was also concerned. American Gods is pretty word heavy, Gaiman has even talked about how his publisher asked him to cut it down, so I was concerned that the story, the magic, the beauty that is American Gods would be lost in translation. In an interview with CBR, P. Craig Russell talks about his process in assuring that this did not happen. Although we are only on the first issue, it is definitely flowing nicely so far. The storyline is flawless, and it feels as though everything has been covered.
Wednesday talks with Shadow as if he has known him for years. He offers his condolences for the passing of his wife, and offers him a job. Shadow however, having never met this man takes this to be some kind of scam or hustle and ditches him as soon as they land. Shadow, just looking to get home, still with the hope that the news about Laura was a mix up, hires a car and hits the road. Taking a break, and to get some food he makes a stop in the middle of nowhere, where he finds a place known as Jack’s Crocodile Bar. However, he isn’t the only one to have located Jack’s Crocodile Bar; we leave Shadow at the end of the first issue in the restrooms of the bar, where Mr. Wednesday is waiting for him, asking again if, having now had time to think about it, he would like a job?
I love the way Wednesday has been depicted here by Scott Hampton, for me it was spot on, just how I imagined him. Shadow however, wasn’t quite right for me visually. Overall though the art is brilliant: Hampton has a great skill for visual story telling. In an interview with Newsarama Hampton talks about how the character profiles came together for this project, and how he wanted to keep the upcoming TV show out of the mix in regards to the artwork.
Hampton also enlightens us in the interview with Newsarama that throughout the series there will be a few bits here and there done by other artists. There are some great covers for this issue by Glenn Fabry, David Mack and Dave McKean, and these variants will continue for each issue, which is awesome. You can choose which one you like best or if you are a Gaiman fanatic like me- just get them all!
Although predominantly responsible for script and layout throughout this series, Russell also takes on some artwork for the first issue in “Somewhere in America”. In this side story we meet the God Bilquis, and with her presence the tone of the comic shifts. Bilquis is believed to be half-jinn and plays a prostitute who consumes men via her vagina. Again in his interview with CRB, Russell talks about why he decided to take this on, how he felt it was a challenge and that the artwork would be tricky. He also spoke to Paste Magazine about the Bilquis scene and his approach to it. I think Russell has done a great job at balancing the literal and metaphorical here, without going as far as to get an X rating.
So with the first issue down, I cannot wait to see what Russell and Hampton have in store for us next. So far it’s looking really good. They managed to condense so much into the first issue without compromising any of the plot or the flow of the story. It's just brilliant, what more is there to say.