The Old vs The New – A Review of American Gods

By Jarrett Heale for

American Gods is the comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. It’s a tale of old gods at war with new gods, and considering I like the author and I know it is successful in all it’s forms, I was happy to have the opportunity to review this book thanks to Penguin Random House.


American Gods Vol 1 Shadows Review

Published by Dark Horse Books
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton

As cool as I found the premise, I’m going to be upfront about the impression this read gave me at first, because in many cases first impressions are extremely important: I found the pace difficult in the beginning, which slowed my motivation to keep reading. It was probably just that the weather was sunny and warm out so I was less focused. Though you quickly get the sense there’s more going on than meets the eye, I found myself wondering if the novel may have a more expedited introduction to what the heck is actually happening behind the wizard (of oz)’s curtain, so to speak. I suspected (at least at first) it might just be less suited to the comic book page, in terms of how long it took before very much started making sense.  After a few false starts, it did snag me though… This whole package is shrouded in mystery (and for enough readers, some confusion I suspect), but you begin to realize some of these literary shadows cast are also the cunning and guile of the gods; therefore, you understand that despite the uncertainty, this mythos appears tantalizingly ripe with possibilities.

“…you understand that despite the uncertainty, this mythos appears tantalizingly ripe with possibilities.”

This first volume follows Shadow, a man just released from prison who is hopeful for his future. His plans to return home to his wife and start a job quickly fall apart when he learns she has died, and the job doesn’t exist. As most people do at the end of a truly tragic day, Shadow gets drunk and maybe makes some rash decisions that we as readers can quickly tell will come back to haunt him.

The artwork by Scott Hampton is very fitting. There is a visual tone that keeps stride with the plot. I found the pencils engaging and balanced, for example accurately conveying body language and portraying facial expressions without a distractingly detailed background. By contrast, but I found the colour lacking and sometimes detracting from the overall intended impact of certain scenes. At other times, the drab, repetitive colour palette served to match the same tone mentioned earlier, so it could just be that I was missing the point at times (again, spring springing outside).

“…any time invested in familiarizing myself with this world should be valid regardless of which version I explore.”

For one brief moment, I feel it’s worth mentioning the Amazon original television series based on the same source material. I did have time to squeeze in just the first episode (or was it two?) and was pleasantly shocked to see how faithful it was; at least to the graphic novel but I presume to the novel as well. This invigorated me, because I felt that any time invested in familiarizing myself with this world should be valid regardless of which version I explore. I thrive on solidarity across media for my favourite settings and characters… which is likely why I like D&D’s Forgotten Realms setting so much, but I digress.

Overall this is a great read, and I’m excited to see where it is headed. My only struggle was early on and likely not shared by other readers judging by the success of this story in pretty much every medium that counts now. Alas, I should have known to simply have faith in Neil Gaiman, creator of the entire pantheon of gods!

Our copy of American Gods Vol 1 Shadows was provided by Penguin Random House Canada. You can get your copy here!

Posted by 2018-04-24 Category: Jarrett's Reviews, Review Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

About jarrett

I got into Uncanny X-men and Batman pretty young and branched out into other comics from there. Currently reading the same titles, other related X-titles, and Adventure Time. Podcast host, musician, recording engineer, and site admin. Check out my SoundCloud at and follow me @JarrettHeale on Twitter!