In one of the variant covers of issue two’s ‘American Gods’ Thought and Memory, two ravens flank the face of a weary-looking Odin. We know who he is not because of the darkened eye socket where one of his eyes should be but the piercing gaze of the other. Also known as Huginn and Muninn, these black birds report to Odin all the ongoing happenings in the nine realms, particularly Midgard (AKA earth). Apparently the battle for worshippers will be between the gods of old and the immortals of today. This is where our hero Shadow, like his name is trapped between the light and solid ground. More importantly, for the reader he is the observer. Through his lens we will know if we should even take a side in this fight.
Barely into his bodyguard position for Mr. Wednesday, Shadow is abducted by Technical Boy. But first a leprechaun (who’s ridiculously tall), a washed up Norse god and a very confused ex-con enter a bar. They make a bargain, drink a lot and fight a great deal more. But when you take a look at the panels you see even more. In the description of the bar, Neil Gaiman narrates for the audience. His tone and narrative pace keeps you in a false sense of safety until Shadow is kidnapped. In the comic book adaptation the combination of artwork and words constantly keeps the reader in a tense mode. You expect something cataclysmic to happen, then it doesn’t. Like a magic trick you want to know how it’s done. How can the same three characters, in the same setting hold such different emotions for the audience? It’s why this form is necessary. Writer P. Craig Russell has breathed new life into a novel for people who may never have picked up the book. For those who love Gaiman and ‘American Gods’ in particular it pays homage without copying scene for scene, like that unnecessary ‘Psycho’ film remake.
Still, the story is the main attraction. As Shadow deals with how his wife died, he’s taken by a new emerging god. And he is ugly and fat to the point where you can tell he’s been gorging on his worshippers. However, he’s afraid of Wednesday, that above everything else is what should be paid attention to. After all what’s there to be scared of? A watered down Odin attempting the biggest grift ever is still dangerous. This is the god who gouged out his eye for the sake of knowledge. He hung himself for nine days and created the Ruin language. He is the all-father. So yes, the new gods should be very afraid. More importantly, it’s still unknown what part Shadow plays in all this. Why does Wednesday choose him? Is he a god, or demigod and isn’t aware of it? One thing is for certain, Shadow is smart enough not to trust anyone. And savvy to the point where saying as little as possible just may save your life.
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