REVIEW: “American Gods Volume 3: The Moment of the Storm”

american gods vol 3As evidenced by my weekly coverage of the American Gods TV series when it airs, I adore the book, originally written by Neil Gaiman. It’s one of those books that’s super weird and truly hard to explain and honestly just needs to be experienced. But, sometimes it can be hard to find a swatch of time with reach to read a 600+ page novel. Which is where visual adaptations come in. Obviously, they can, and should, never be replacements for reading the original text, but they can often be a great way of experiencing a story you might otherwise not have the time to experience. Unfortunately, Starz’s television adaptation continues to both stray from the source material and be plagued by behind-the-scenes troubles. Luckily, Dark Horse Comics’ has an adaptation of their own. Helmed by P. Craig Russell, these three volumes have been a very faithful adaptation of the novel and an utter joy to read as they’ve released. Now, with the publication of the third and final volume of the adaptation, it’s nice to have a fully-completed, semi-visual adaptation of the novel – if you consider a graphic novel to be a visual adaptation; I do. (Mild spoilers for both the original novel and the graphic novel.)

American Gods Volume 3: “The Moment of the Storm” (by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell, illustrated by Scott Hampton) 
The new and old gods agree to meet in the center of America to exchange the body of the old gods’ fallen leader–heading towards to the inevitable god war in this final arc to the bestselling comic series! (Collects American Gods Volume 3: The Moment of the Storm #1-#9.)

American Gods: The Moment of the Storm adapts the final part of the novel, covering the events of Wednesday’s death and funeral, Shadow’s time on the World Tree, and the climax of the novel. For a visual adaptation, this section of the novel is probably the most exciting to translate into the medium and Russell and Hampton do a superb job of it. Craig continues to take nearly all of the words for his scripts directly from Gaiman’s novel, lifting dialogue almost verbatim from the novel and taking chunks of the prose and using it as linking narration for the comic’s scenes. As always, I remain a bit unsure as to whether I like how slavishly faithful the scripts are to the novel. On the one hand, in light of the liberties the TV series has taken, it’s really nice to have a visual adaptation hews much closer to the source material. But on the other hand, it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity to not make any changes to the material – especially in updating some of the more dated references for a more modern time. Additionally, I’m not really sure the comic needs as much of the novel’s prose as Russell has carried over. Sure, Gaiman’s prose is really beautiful, but I think a lot of Hampton’s artwork does enough to explain the story without the near-constant use of linking narration. That said, I’m just nitpicking at this point. This part of the novel is easily the most exciting part and Russell’s script captures that excitement well.

Hampton’s artwork captures that excitement just as well as, if not better than, Russell’s script. This is the part of the story where Hampton is really able to let loose with his artwork; from Shadow’s time on the World Tree to the climax in Rock City (and “Backstage”), there’s a lot of space for Hampton to be as weird as he wants with the artwork. And he rises to the occasional remarkably, finding a good balance between keeping everything in the same grounded style established in the previous volumes while still leaning into the more fantastical elements of this part of the story. A particular image that stands out to me comes in the 7th issue, where Anansi meets Shadow after all the Gods disperse from Rock City. Here, Hampton depicts Anansi in his spider form, but you still get the sense that this is the same man as the dapper, older gentleman we’ve seen Anansi depicted as before. And with one of his eight legs, he guides Shadow out of the Backstage and into reality, and the transition between spider-Anansi and human-Anansi is spectacular and perfectly emblematic of the work Hampton does in this volume. His artwork has long been my favorite aspect of these comics and it remains so in this volume, with Hampton somehow able to top the excellent work he’s previously done.

Dark Horse Comics’ adaptation of American Gods has been deeply enjoyable for its entire run – and The Moment of the Storm is no exception, ending this series just as strong as it began. While there’s nothing new in the actual script of the story, the joy comes from how Hampton depicts the world of the story and, at this point, I’m mostly okay with that. Anyone who is considering reading this volume has probably read the previous volumes and know that the style – both text and visual – of this series can take some getting used to, but once you get used to it, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read. I appreciate how faithful it is to the novel as it makes for a really easy way to refresh yourself on the story of American Gods if you find you don’t quite have the time to read the novel. That said, it’s not just a copy and paste of the novel, it truly does do some adapting to make it flow as a comic. Hampton’s artwork is the true star of this series, though, and it’s at its best in this final volume, with Hampton being free to bring as much weirdness into the artwork as he wants. Overall, this comic adaptation has been a true joy to read and I’m excited to see what Dark Horse and Russell do with the newly announced adaptation of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. If it’s as good as this, it’ll be a great time.

4.5 out of 5 wands.

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