American Gods, Vol. 3: The Moment of the Storm by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton. Review.

American Gods, Vol. 3: The Moment of the Storm by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton

Headline, hb, £23.35

Review by Stephen Theaker

This is the third in a series of graphic novels adapting erstwhile BFS reviewer Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. An old god has been murdered. Shadow has been invited to meet the new gods at the putative centre of the USA, to take possession of the body. Once that is done, he will serve a vigil, tied to a tree next to the body, for nine days and nine nights without water. Meanwhile, the old gods and the new are massing for battle, to fight over a country that hardly cares about them.

Readers who recognise P. Craig Russell’s name on the cover may be surprised by the art style within; it’s nothing at all like his elegant, stylish work on Elric or Conan. This is because, rather than being the principal artist, he provides scripts and layouts for Scott Hampton to work from. The book’s cover is by David Mack, in a different style again, while Glenn Fabry provided the spectacular covers for the original Dark Horse issues, used here as chapter title pages.

It took me a little while to warm to Scott Hampton’s style. It has a slight uncanniness that can sometimes result from photo-referencing, perhaps because it’s quite unusual to see correctly-proportioned humans in comics. And some early panels are a bit plain. But as I got used to the style, I grew to like it very much. Photo-referencing often seems to produce a greater variety of facial expressions, a huge benefit for a comic that is so much about character, and as the book goes on there are much more fantastical and exciting things for Hampton to illustrate. Shadow’s visionary experiences while tied to the tree are particularly well done.

The book as a whole is very good. It certainly feels like a comic in itself rather than an adaptation or an illustrated novel. There isn’t the over-abundance of captions and dialogue that can sometimes spoil such projects. It feels appropriately epic, and some sequences have the feel of a true myth if you’ll excuse the oxymoron. If this were slotted into Michael Gibson’s Gods, Men & Monsters from the Greek Myths (a childhood favourite that this frequently brought to mind), sans the modern accoutrements, no one would notice the deception. Four stars.

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