IT’S FINALLY HERE.
Neil Gaiman is my favorite living author (I only qualify living because I can’t choose between him and Tolkien, so he’s my favorite living and Tolkien’s my favorite departed author), and I’ve always had trouble picking a favorite book of his. Every month or so I seem to have a new one, because in all honesty, pretty much every single one of his books has been a favorite.
That said…I’ve always respected American Gods the most. It’s by far his most ambitious, and it’s his most impressive. And, honestly, I think it might be my actual favorite. I’m a huge mythology geek, and this book is basically Valhalla for mythology fans. There’s such a richness to it, wrapped around a human character, and it’s amazing. It’s also a book that somehow got exponentially better on the second read (even though on my first reading I thought it was amazing and rated it 5-stars), and I feel like the more I read it and experience all the subtle references and discover more mythological elements, the better it will still become.
So suffice to say, I was definitely excited for this comic to come out when I first heard it was announced. Especially because, while P. Craig Russell isn’t my favorite artist, he adapts Gaiman’s stuff incredibly well and competently, and most importantly, with respect. So I was happy he was just doing the layouts and script, and someone else was doing the finishes, and I just couldn’t wait for this.
The days leading to its release, I had seen a lot of negative reviews about this online, and now having read it I don’t really understand why. Yes, it’s a very literal adaptation, but Gaiman’s prose is so good and works so well I didn’t mind. I guess in that sense this is less of a comic and more of an illustrated novel, because the art doesn’t really add anything new to the story (with the exception of the last scene), but just sort of enhances the words—which I’m fine with.
A lot of the text is exactly the text from the novel, and I was totally fine with that—it’s where Russel shines, deciding the words to use and cut. He seems to have a great grasp on Gaiman’s language, and I love that. This definitely felt like it was a Gaiman work—of course, a lot of that came from the fact that much of it is word-for-word—and that’s what I needed most from this adaptation, since I hold the novel in such regard. I love different artists’ takes on things a lot of the time, but for this I wanted something that felt definitively Gaimanesque—and it does.
In many ways, this first issue was very slow-paced, covering only the first chapter of the novel. I enjoyed it, but it does make me curious as to how they plan to adapt the rest, as surely they’ll have to pick up the pace.
The only negative thing for me was actually the art itself…which at the beginning made me rate this 3 stars, but as the issue went on I decided to go with 4.5. No, I wasn’t a huge fan of the art, but despite all that, once I got into it and put aside my personal dislike of the art, I loved the comic itself. Sure, this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I really, really wish it could’ve had amazing art by Chris Riddell or Dave McKean (who, speaking of, I’m so, so glad he’s still doing variant covers, as he might be my favorite cover artist) or Greg Capullo (oh man that would be so utterly amazing) or any number of other artists. But at least it respects the original.
As I said, I’m not a huge fan of Russell’s art in general (though he’s good at adapting things text-wise, his art just isn’t my favorite), and that’s definitely the biggest hurt to
this book. I’m not sure ifI prefer the artist who did the finishes, Scott Hampton, or Russell, who did the layouts, but whoever was more responsible, I felt like the
backgrounds were fairly bland, and the style used for the faces just didn’t seem to fit to me. In a lot of ways, the art seemed to me almost like it’s unfinished. I know it’s the style, and was probably all (or at least mostly) deliberate, but I just wasn’t a huge fan and wish they could have gotten someone else.
That said, there were some really innovative things done in the last scene, though, and I’m hoping the future issues are more like that. It still might not have been my favorite art style, but the way it actually added to the text, more than just adapting what the text said, was fantastic.
And because of the slowness of the first chapter, perhaps once things pick up the art will be more like the end scene in this issue, where the art really adds to the words instead of just complementing them, as it’ll definitely have to fill in some of the gaps unless this just becomes an incredibly long series (which…I’m not sure I’d mind, lol, except for the price). It’s clear that the creative prowess is there, regardless of whether or not I’m a fan of the art personally, and so I hope that creative ability is utilized further as the series goes on.
It does make me both worried and excited for the future, though—the need to cut things down might allow for some more amazing art, but at the same time, they could cut some fantastic scenes or plot points in the original novel. I’m just really hoping it results in the former and doesn’t end up being disappointing in the future. Right now, I think they did a great job, but they were also incredibly literal which can’t be how they proceed, just due to time restraints.
At the end of the day, perhaps I’m a bit blinded in my love for both the original novel and Gaiman in general (or rather, I know I am, it’s just a question of how much). But that’s the thing—I also don’t really care, because once I got into it I loved it, despite the disappointing (to me) art. I loved getting immersed in this world again, I loved seeing the graphic representations of the characters (again, even despite the art—I loved the experience). And I cannot wait for issue #2.