Out on March 15th from Dark Horse is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, this series is an adaptation of Gaiman’s original novel of the same name from 2001. After winning a Hugo and Nebula award, Gaiman revisits the novel to adapt it to not only comic book form, but also as a TV series on Starz soon. Gaiman (The Sandman) takes lead with story and words, and teams up again with P. Craig Russell (Doctor Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You Stephen?) for script and layouts. Art by Scott Hampton (G.I. Zombie) and letters by Rick Parker (Conan). Including a short, “Somewhere in America” by P. Craig Russell and Lovern Kindzierski (GI Joe). This amazing mystery not only combines elements of modern culture and social situations but also incorporates old mythologies and ancient philosophies forming a tale unlike any other.
Our story begins in prison, where a man named Shadow Moon is serving out a three-year sentence. Trying to keep his mind occupied, he learns tricks and focuses on his waiting wife as he dreams up future memories of his life after prison. One day Shadow’s cellmate, Low-Key Lyesmith, loans him a copy of Herodotus’s Histories which Shadow reject’s at first claiming “I don’t read books”. Lyesmith insists, so Shadow gives it a try finding himself instantly hooked. About a month before his release Shadow is called into a cold room with a cold man sitting at the table. The man starts in on a series of questions, all of which are basic parole type of query. Shadow has no problem answering them either, he’s going home to his wife. He plans on getting a job with a close friend Robbie at the gym that he used to train at, he did something stupid but he did his time and is ready to move on. A few days later Shadow calls his wife collect, only five days, but he can’t shake this feeling like a storm coming. His wife tries to calm his nerves, letting wind of a surprise party for his arrival home. Later in the cafeteria Shadow is interrupted by another inmate who seems to bear some sort of dark message, about a coming storm, almost like the whole world is shifting. With only days left on his sentence, Shadow is called into the warden’s office for truly devastating news. An accident has taken his wife Laura along with his friend Robbie, and the warden has decided to grant him an early release.
After being released Shadow is sitting in the airport and it finally dawns on him, he is no longer in prison and is a free man. Upon getting onto the plane Shadow falls into a deep sleep and dreams of a creature in a dark place. The creature relays a similar message as the prisoner in the cafeteria, about the changes coming. Shadow Moon awakens to the plane landing and proceeds to walk into the new airport. Realizing he isn’t where he’s supposed to be, he begins to frantically run back and forth trying to find his connection. Finally arriving at the correct flight and boarding the plane, he heads to his seat only to find someone already there. Shadow is then bumped up to first class to remedy the mistake and sits next to a man with a large scar on his eye. As the plane starts to back away from the gate, the man tells’s Shadow that he’s late and that he has a job for him. The conversation continue’s as the man introduces himself as Mister Wednesday and seems to know Shadow, where he’s been, how he got there, and what happened to Laura. Shadow turn’s Mister Wednesday’s job offer down and exits the plane as soon as it lands. Shadow then rents a car and starts driving towards home, Eagle Point, which is over two-hundred miles away. Getting hungry, he stops at a dive bar for a burger and to use the restroom. Upon walking into the bathroom and up to a urinal, Shadow starts to relieve himself when he hears a faint cough next to him. He turns only to see none other than Mister Wednesday himself standing there as if to appear out of thin air and he’s asking Shadow “Do you want a job?”.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a lady of the evening is instructing her current John to light a red candle. In the dark red room, the man does as instructed and then leaves her pay on the table. As business transpires she commands him to worship her, and beyond his own control he does as told. He begins to feel something he never has before, achieving some sort of sexual nirvana, wondering if it is real or just an illusion. The dream turns into a nightmare, as the woman devours the man whole, whilst he is inside her. The candle goes out and she answer’s an unwanted call on the John’s phone, hangs up and then begins to slumber.
I personally have never really read any of Gaiman collected works, which I have been told is equivalent to comic book heresy. Gaiman’s writing style is not only organic but fluid, things have a way of flowing into the next scene while revealing clues to a bigger story. I really enjoyed how he writes incredibly accurate real life situations, the back-and-forth of the inmates in the prison, or Shadow running through the airport trying to catch his plane. I can see why the book has won multiple awards and is being translated to other mediums. Scott Hampton’s work is perfect for Shadows depressing story, and breath’s life into these beloved characters. It’s oblivious that Hampton pays close attention to facial cues between people, which is necessary and really conveys certain emotions. I’m left with so many questions as to what will happen next, regarding not only Shadow and his new relationship with Mister Wednesday but also this strange woman we are introduced to. After reading this issue I’m defiantly a fan of Gaiman now and plan on reading the original novel as well.