Have you ever known a story, perhaps an urban legend, and then heard a song about it? And between the two, a kind of third version arises in your mind–it’s all the same story, but the edges get hard to pin down. It has avenues and denser and more sparsely populated areas, you begin to notice. It grows, seemingly on its own. It takes on a life of its own, for sure.
[David Mack’s cover for American Gods #3]
Things are getting that way reading the American Gods comic from Dark Horse while at the same time following the weekly TV show on Starz. Storylines and conversations weave in and out of each other, at times settling firmly on the same ground in rather satisfying ways. The scheduling of the comic and the show was pretty genius in keeping the events told in the two media looping in and out of each others orbits in interesting ways.
This week, issue #3 of the comic was released by Dark Horse, adapted by P. Craig Russell from Neil Gaiman’s original novel, and illustrated by Scott Hampton and Walter Simonson. Following the life of Shadow Moon, who has recently been released from jail following the death of his wife the week of his scheduled release, the story has taken Shadow on the road in the company of very stubborn employer Mr. Wednesday while weirder and wilder things start to happen. Shadow is finding himself in the middle of a gathering of old gods who are involved in a brewing war against newer gods.
In this issue, Shadow is having his first “new” experiences as a free man, like sleeping in a bed, taking a bath, and recovering from recent confrontations with odd, menacing beings. But his dreams don’t let him rest any more than his waking life does. We follow Shadow into a world of dreams where he begins to understand the fate of “gods who have been forgotten”, which is a throughline for the story, and disturbing ideas like “ideas can be killed in the end”.
The nature of deities in this universe is being revealed, bit by bit. We are beginning to suspect that Mr. Wednesday has some desperation driving him, despite his verve and nonchalance. He knows a terrible fate awaits gods who are forgotten. Even Shadow feels it in his dreams.
This issue also reveals a great deal more about Laura’s personality–Shadow’s wife who is recently deceased. We get more of her perspective on her own unfaithfulness, through less than orthodox methods, and we begin to understand the presence she has in Shadow’s life–and may continue to have.
One of the main developments in this issue, that builds on previous issues, is that we begin to see the shape of Shadow’s own personality becoming more distinctive. One of his most noticeable traits is his ability to process bizarre information and render it concrete–probably out of sheer necessity. He often repeats the information that Wednesday gives him out loud, thinks about it, and corrects and calls things out that are vaguely expressed.
Shadow is pinning down a mental map of the uncertain terrain around him. He starts to come off as more “down to earth” than those around him, even though he knows less. In some ways he seems stronger than even some of the gods for doing so. His forthrightness and his tendency to need words to name things help us build an understanding of his world, too. On the other hand, is this also about him coming to learn about the gods, so they are not forgotten? If so, he’s studying hard.
While the main storyline is illustrated by Scott Hampton in his excellent blend of realism and fantastic elements, often with such fine lines between the two that you won’t notice the transition–Walter Simonson illustrates our account of the Viking arrival in North America that accounts for the presence of old European gods on the continent in an epic and historically grounded style, adding to the world of the comic.
This issue is a process of revelation for readers of the main ideas in the comic, and personalities at play, so makes for a satisfying journey further into the world of American Gods.
American Gods #3 is out in shops now. American Gods #4 arrives in shops on June 14th, 2017.