American Gods: Shadows #2

Story: Neil Gaiman
Script/Layouts: P. Craig Russell
Artist: Scott Hampton
Letterer: Rick Parker
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

A review by Stephanie Pouliotte

Holding Neil Gaiman to his word that the Dark Horse comic would be a faithful adaptation, American Gods: Shadows #2 is seamlessly lifted from the second chapter of the book. We lose a bit of Shadow’s inner musings as Russell tightens up the scenes, but he keeps the dialogue intact, which means this issue is mostly talk with a little action. Shadow and Mad Sweeney even manage to hold up an existential conversation while roundhousing each other in a bar fight. This isn’t a bad thing though, since Gaiman’s prose really pulls you in and keeps you interested.

Much of the inner workings of this world is revealed in the first scene, though by his levelheaded nature Shadow remains oblivious to what’s actually going on. From impossible coin tricks to bargains sealed over cups of mead, the scene in Jack’s bar really sets the dynamic for Shadow and Wednesday’s relationship. Wednesday’s a self-proclaimed con man and a liar, so his words say a lot more than they appear to, even Mad Sweeney tries to warm him. Shadow may not trust him, but now that he’s Wednesday’s man he remains loyal, even after being kidnapped and threatened by one of the old man’s rivals.

Though Shadow isn’t the most emotive protagonist, Hampton teases out his feelings in subtle smirks and muted eyebrow raises. At times his expression barely changes from one panel to the next, which slows down the pace at key moments and reinforces his steadfast demeanor. A few of Wednesday’s facial expressions came off rather stiff, but it plays into the idea that Wednesday learned to smile by looking at a catalogue. It’s very forced, and it’s all a part of the long con.

I wish there was more to the backgrounds though; they were sparse, simply drawn, and sometimes non-existent. A bit of a missed opportunity in Jack’s bar especially, it certainly didn’t come off as a crocodile-themed, dive bar as the exterior suggests. I mean their table had a clean white tablecloth! Discovering the strange and idiosyncratic places in America was part of the book’s charm; the novel creates a peculiar American landscape in which the old and new Gods must now co-exist. There’s even a short caveat in the novel before the first chapter about the various locales in the story. So far I haven’t felt very grounded in America or anchored to anything except the characters, it’s almost like the story is happening in a blurry void.

Check it out!
In American Gods: Shadows #2 coin tricks are shared, mead is drunk, and bargains are struck. Shadow learns that the dead have their own secrets, and he unwittingly sets events into motion when he buries Mad Sweeney’s coin with his dead wife Laura. If you are familiar with the book, you could probably skip this issue since it’s mostly conversation and little plot progression, but newcomers will want to meet the pugnacious Mad Sweeney and the first of Wednesday’s rivals in the war that will reshape American myth.

Stephanie Pouliotte
Comics junkie. Internet lurker. Fantastic beast. I spend most of my time immersed in strange and fantastical stories, be it through books, comics, video games, movies or TV shows. Oh and I sometimes writes things down and stuff.

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