American Gods: Shadows #3
Story: Neil Gaiman
Script/Layouts: P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton
Letterer: Rick Parker
“Coming to America”: Walter Simonson and Laura Martin
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
American Gods: Shadows #3 begins as Shadow arrives at the Motel America after his first run-in with the New Gods, but Wednesday doesn’t seem too concerned about the techno brat putting the squeeze on his new bodyguard. He’s more focused on their next move, which will take them to Chicago to visit Czernobog and the Zorya sisters on the first stop of their mysterious American road trip. But before they leave, Shadow has another strange dream, this time about forgotten Gods, and wakes to find his dead wife Laura has stopped by for a visit. She thanks him for the gift of Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin that he tossed in her grave, and also warns him that even though she was six-feet under mere hours ago, he’s the one who may be in over his head.
Since the comic isn’t really straying from the source material, in American Gods: Shadows #3 we finally get the first bit of emotion from our protagonist (unlike the show, where he’s made to be much more emotive). He’s a fairly stoic and guarded character, but after having a heart-to-heart with his dead wife, he breaks down, if only for a moment, as he struggles to cope with what’s happening. Hampton again pencils some telling, yet restrained facial expressions that only hint at the tempest raging underneath Shadow’s calm exterior. We also get to see some beautifully surreal artwork in Shadow’s dream as he encounters the stone remnants of an ancient pantheon of nameless Gods, each more grotesque and disturbing than the last. He feels they exude a “deep and violent wrongness” and Hampton couldn’t have done a better job at capturing that sentiment. These pages are exactly why I felt Hampton was the perfect choice to illustrate this comic, and in this issue he finally gets to dig into the more fantastical and surreal elements of the story.
About midway through the issue we get tossed into choppy seas in 813 A.D. in the vignette “Coming to America”. It tells the story of a group of warriors who travel to the shores of America, bringing the old Norse Gods with them. This is an important part this world’s mythology, as the entire premise of the story rests on the idea that Gods are born, live, and die at the altar of worship. As long as the sacrificial fires are lit and the blood runs thick, they will be strong, powerful, and relevant. These were the old way, but those ways are forgotten in the modern world, where new Gods have been born from a different type of worship. The power lies not in the idea itself, but in the belief of that idea, which is echoed in Shadow’s dream and also by the words of Czernobog, who has grown bitter after leaving the old country where he had nearly been forgotten. Simonson’s artwork is beautifully detailed in these pages, with panels mirroring each other to chilling effect.
Check it out! With the Starz show in full swing, American Gods: Shadows #3 isn’t where you’re likely to get your monthly Gaiman fix, especially since the plot of the show is way ahead of the comic now. If you’re like me and you’ve read the book so many times the pages are falling out, I’d hold off on following this run issue to issue. So far, American Gods: Shadows doesn’t seem to be adding anything new to the plot or characters, but you still won’t want to miss out on Hampton’s haunting artwork, or that of the impressive line-up of featured artists (in this case Walter Simsonson and Laura Martin on “Coming to America”), so I’d strongly suggest picking up the collected trades later on. Fresh readers will get more meat from this captivating plot though, as well as the added fun of comparing what’s going on in the show to a really faithful adaptation of the original story.