Some comics just blow you away the moment you start reading them. Whether it’s a mind-blowing story or a collection of gorgeous artwork, there’s no feeling like reading a brilliant graphic novel. And Colleen Doran’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story, Chivalry, is a perfect example of this. While the original story is a sweet little tale about an elderly woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop, Doran’s adaptation raises things to a whole new level. With artwork that bounces back and forth between warm and comfy watercolors and pages that look like an intricately illustrated manuscript, every page of Chivalry is a work of art all in itself.
NOTE: I received a review copy of Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.
Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry Adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran An elderly British widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic visit from an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in hope for winning the cup.
Dark Horse Comics continues its adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology with Norse Mythology Volume 2. Collecting four more retellings of Norse myths, Norse Mythology Volume 2 features artwork from Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell. And, much like the first volume, adaptor P. Craig Russell and the various artists deliver a faithful, entertaining retelling of these stories. If you’ve read Gaiman’s original book, you’ll enjoy seeing these tales brought to life like this. And if you haven’t, then Norse Mythology Volume 2 is a great place to start.
NOTE: I received a review copy of Norse Mythology Volume 2 from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.
Norse Mythology Volume 2 Adapted by P. Craig Russell Illustrated by Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell In this second volume, Gaiman and Russell once more team with a legendary collection of artists to bring more Norse myths to life, including the origins of poetry and a mead that many will die for, Thor and Loki’s eventful trip into the land of giants, the gods’ woeful bargain that might lose them eternal life, and the beloved god Frey’s journey to Valhalla and beyond to find a certain missing something.
Of all of Neil Gaiman’s novels, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is probably the one most suited for a stage adaptation. While stuffed full of magic and monsters and other such fantasy, it’s more of a quiet story at heart. Introspective, even. A story about what we choose to remember and what we don’t. About a boy who has to grow up a bit too quickly. And it’s these elements that Joel Howrood’s adaptation, the basis for the critically acclaimed National Theatre stage production, focuses on. Perfectly capturing the feeling of wading through an ocean of memories, Horwood’s script faithfully adapts Gaiman’s novel with all of the adventure and emotion you’d want. I haven’t seen the play yet, but the script is a breathtaking piece of writing all to itself. And I can only imagine how brilliantly it translates on stage.
NOTE: This review contains mild spoilers for both the original novel and Joel Horwood’s adaptation of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Adapted by Joel Horwood Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. When he meets an old friend, he is reminded of a name he has not heard for many years: Lettie Hempstock. And is transported to his 12th birthday, when Lettie claimed that this wasn’t a pond at all, but an ocean…
Plunged into 1983, our young protagonist struggles with the ripples of a disturbing event that makes him question his deepest assumptions about his fractured family. Striving to come to terms with his newly unknowable world, together with his new friend Lettie he must reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything and in turn learn to trust others to find his own feet.
The third season of American Gods came to quite an explosive ending last week, with Shadow holding Wednesday’s vigil on the World Tree. It’s an ending that was well prepared for, concluding a season that spent ample time building up Shadow’s struggles with his divinity, his desire for power, and the cyclical nature of him trying to escape Wednesday’s shadow, only to be drawn further into it. On the whole, it was the most consistent season of American Gods to date. While it might not have reached the same heights of past seasons, it maintained a level of quality that ensured the show never reached the same lows of past seasons. Now, with the future of the show in flux, it seems like a good time to revisit the third season, looking at what worked and what didn’t.
NOTE: There will be full spoilers for all three seasons of American Gods. Read at your own risk.
Characters from Norse mythology remain a popular facet of modern pop culture. These days, most people are probably familiar with the Marvel comics/film versions of deities like Thor, Loki, and Odin, but elements of Norse mythology frequently pop up all over the place. Famously, Neil Gaiman borrowed heavily from Norse mythology for his 2001 novel, American Gods (which got adapted by Dark Horse Comics as a comic series in 2017, so it’s only appropriate that he published his own retellings of Norse tales in 2017’s Norse Mythology. And now, Dark Horse is bringing these closer-to-authentic Norse tales to the world of comics—where the Marvel versions of these characters got their start. The first volume of this series—adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson—is a very faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s source material. Like Dark Horse’s American Gods adaptation, very little is changed here—but it works very, very well. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: Thanks to Edelweiss and Dark Horse Comics for providing a digital ARC of this title. All thoughts are my own.
Norse Mythology: Volume 1 Adapted by: P. Craig Russell Illustrated by: P. Craig Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kowalski, David Rubín, and Jill Thompson Gaiman and Russell team with a legendary collection of artists to take readers through a series of Norse myths, including the creation of the Nine Worlds, the loss of Odin’s eye and source of his knowledge, the crafting of Thor’s hammer and the gods’ most valuable treasures, the origin of poetry, and Loki’s part in the end of all things—Ragnarök.
And with that, another season of American Gods comes to a close. Tonight’s episode caps off what’s been the most consistent season of American Gods so far—and what an episode it is. If last week’s episode felt more like a traditional season finale, then this week’s episode acts as a beautiful coda to the season, bringing many of the character arcs to a conclusion while throwing the narrative door wide open for the show to go in any number of directions. It raises more questions than it answers, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It straddles a nice line between faithfulness to the book and faithfulness to what the TV adaptation has become and I feel it works very well—even if there are some developments I’m not entirely sold on just yet. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review features spoilers for episode 3×10 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.
American Gods: Episode 3×10: “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree” Written by: Laura Pusey and Ryan Spencer Directed by: Russell Lee Fine Teetering on the edge of war and peace, the gods gather to mourn a loss. Bilquis’ divine journey brings her to an unexpected revelation, while Shadow finally embraces a destiny that could bring him either greatness or death.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve reviewed an American Gods episode—but that’s not because they’ve been bad. Episode seven felt the victim of quick edits (which were needed to remove Marilyn Manson from the episode) but largely served as setup (albeit good setup) for the rest of the season. Episode eight was extremely beautiful when it focused on Salim’s plotline, but then the stuff with Tyr, Wednesday, and Shadow felt a bit under-baked. The same remains true for this week’s episode. On the surface, it feels a lot like a season finale, wrapping up many of the season’s ongoing plotlines while setting up future ones. But it also reveals one of the season’s biggest problems: in its effort to juggle so many plotlines, it’s forgotten which ones are more important and needed more focus, resulting in a moment that should’ve been a big, explosive reveal landing with more of a thud. Still, most of the episode works very well. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×09. Read at your own risk.
American Gods 3×09: “The Lake Effect” Written by: Laura Pusey and Damian Kindler Directed by: Metin Hüseyin Shadow has to decide the price he’s willing to pay for his idyllic Lakeside life. As Laura and her new ally close in on her target, Wednesday has to persuade Czernobog that it’s time to make peace with their enemies.
While last week’s episode of American Gods saw quite a lot of stuff happen, things slowed down some this week. In “Conscience of the King,” we finally get some answers about Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Demeter’s (Blythe Danner) past, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) confronts Mr. World (Danny Trejo) about his endless glitching, Laura (Emily Browning) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) struggle to find Wednesday, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) spends some quality time in Lakeside with Marguerite (Lela Loren) and her family. It’s a quieter episode, but one with a focus on the characters and their future. As usual, though, the show may have tried to cram a few too many things into its fifty-minute runtime. It’s a great episode, but some parts feel woefully underexplored. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×06 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.)
American Gods S03E06: “Conscience of the King” Written by: Aric Avelino Directed by: Mark Tinker Despite his past following him to Lakeside, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) makes himself at home and builds relationships with the town’s residents. Laura (Emily Browning) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) continue to hunt for Wednesday (Ian McShane), who attempts one final gambit to win over Demeter (Blythe Danner).
A lot happens in this week’s episode of American Gods. So much, in fact, that it feels like the episode is comprised of two different episodes that have been forced together. The first is the conclusion to the previous episode’s Bilquis (Yetide Basaki) arc; the second is a heist-themed episode seeing Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Cordelia (Ashley Reyes) finding dirt on Hutchinson (Sebastian Spence), Demeter’s (Blythe Danner) conservator. The combination of these two storylines creates a tonally weird experience, with the first half of the episode being emotional and philosophical and the second half being more comedic. This doesn’t result in a bad episode, though, just a somewhat uneven one. Still, there’s a lot of exciting highs to be found here. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×05 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.)
American Gods S03E05 – “Sister Rising” Written by: Damian Kindler Directed by: Nick Copus Shadow (Ricky Whittle) explores notions of purpose, destiny and identity with a newly enlightened Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). Elsewhere, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) struggles with an identity crisis of his own. In his efforts to free Demeter (Blythe Danner), Wednesday (Ian McShane) asks a reluctant Shadow to assist in a new con.
Last week’s episode may not have been my favorite episodes of American Gods, but this week’s episode is a marked improvement. “The Unseen” shows American Gods firing on all cylinders. The plot continues to progress, most of the characters are given something meaty and entertaining to play with, and, best of all, the episode manages to balance all of these elements perfectly. Almost every complaint I’ve had for the past few episodes is addressed here, and I can’t say enough positive things about this week’s episode. With any luck, there’ll be more episodes like this one in the future. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review contains spoilers for American Gods S03E04. Read at your own risk.
American Gods S03E04 – “The Unseen” Written by: Nick Gillie, directed by: Eva Sørhaug Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) team up to search for Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), who finds herself captive and in the midst of a crisis of identity. While visiting the local chapter of notorious biker gang Lords of Valhalla, Wednesday (Ian McShane) runs into a familiar face, which puts him in great peril. In purgatory, Laura (Emily Browning) learns about her own destiny and the powerful enemies determined to prevent her from fulfilling it.