You may have noticed from previous posts that I have a thing for mythology. Tales of the gods and their progeny fascinate me and will always garner my attention. It was this love of mythology that attracted me to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I had loved his work on Sandman and him playing with myth in the modern era was enough to entice me to read the book.
When I heard that they would be doing a comic adaptation of the book, I was excited. The first issue came out last week and I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. I did not get time to read it until over the weekend.
I read the issue twice in one sitting. The first reading was filled with that giddy excitement of getting something you’ve been waiting for. The second was to fully process what I read.
After processing, I have to say that the first issue of American Gods is Meh.
It feels like sacrilege to say a comic by Neil Gaiman is just Meh!
Hear me out.
I have read this story before, several times to be exact. I am familiar with the rhythm of the narrative and flow of characters. I have images in my head that I have conjured in these many readings. This leaves a comic a very high bar to achieve.
This first issue, as one would expect, tackles the opening of the book. Literally. We follow the beginning in an almost reverent fashion. The panels tell us the story of Shadow and his Campbellian call to the post of the hero. This issue picks up on the languid pace that the book always seemed to have in my mind and stretches that across these pages as well.
I know this story. I know the cadence that it begins. The slow drum beat that builds and builds over so many pages. I enjoyed it in novel form but it seems laboriously slow in comic form. Instead of getting lost in the prose, I felt like the story dragged moving from panel to panel. The bits and pieces of the story that kept me rapt were built into the descriptions in the prose and are lost in comic form as they are just backgrounds.
The art is my second stumbling block. Like I mentioned, the descriptions in the book add more to the narrative than detract and brought you into the story. These pieces are given little attention in this issue. The art style is reminiscent of Breaking Bad. It has a gritty and half formed feel that just grates on me. It is well done done but just does not work for me.
Overall, I was disappointed in this issue. I was expecting a more dynamic retelling of the story and what I am getting is the story just retold. The art style leaves me cold and I miss the tiny bits that stood out in the prose that are glossed over in the comic. I am going to give issue no 2 a try but I am not holding out hope.
I would give American Gods No 1 two bear paws out of four. It is a retelling of a story I already know without adding anything new. The art is good but of a style that just grates on me. If you are new to American Gods or must have everything by Gaiman, pick up american Gods No 1. Otherwise, wait for the trade.