American Gods: My Ainsel by Neil Gaiman

details
Title: American Gods.
Volume: 2.
Story-Arc: My Ainsel.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell.
Artist(s): Scott Hampton.
Colourist(s): Jennifer T. Lange.
Letterer(s): Rick Parker.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: April 23rd 2019.
Pages: 232.
Genre(s): Comics,  Fantasy.
ISBN13: 9781506707303.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Previously on American Gods:
American Gods (Vol. 1): Shadows by Neil Gaiman.

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As the adaptation of one of Neil Gaiman’s greatest novels continues, the second book of this trilogy of graphic novels continues to explore the battle of Gods as they are brought to life and reel in Shadow into the middle of it all. This story centered around immigration and the clash of cultures is a ride to remember as it highlights some of the greatest issues that mankind has had to face over the years right in the heart of America. With a decent amount of cynism infused into this narrative and a protagonist who is as lost as the reader throughout this adventure, the story progresses towards the grand finale that is bound to be revealed in American Gods: The Moment of the Storm. However, how well does this second installment do in retaining the reader’s attention and building the anticipation? I got news for you. Only good things can come when Neil Gaiman is the maestro behind the orchestra.

What is American Gods: My Ainsel about? Collecting issues #1-9 and covering the midsection of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel, this sequel sees Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and pursue their mission as they hunt down and recruit peculiar Gods for their upcoming war. Making a pit stop to the snowbound town of Lakeside, Shadow takes on his new name, Mike Ainsel, and acquaints himself with the residents as he learns to survive and create a home for himself. Unfortunately for him, strange incidents are occurring around him but also during his dreams that force him to ponder about his life and what he wants to do with it. Amidst his rumination, the origin stories of several Gods and their trickery are exposed while their survival among modern deities is presented to the reader.

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While this section of the novel was slow-paced and stretched on forever, the graphic novel continues to deploy excellent visual adjustments that allowed the story to flow steadily. There aren’t a lot of peripeteia that occurs in the narrative as it essentially consists of a sequence of stories interweaved with side-stories focused on various folklores and mythologies. It’s through the artwork that Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell bring out the story’s bizarreness and otherworldliness. Often the plot also shifts between dreams and reality to allow it to concretize its fantastic elements and remind the reader of the story’s surrealism. Thankfully, the artwork provides the reader with the opportunity to embrace the intangible breadth of this story and what occurs to Shadow.

Artist Scott Hampton and colourist Jennifer T. Lange also do a mysteriously good job in translating Neil Gaiman’s novel with their artistic vision. The task is a challenge in itself and they strive to surmount it with a style that is unexpectedly adequate for this story. Although it is strange at times, with facial expressions that are sometimes disturbing or character designs that are too square, rough or blocky, Scott Hampton’s artwork still succeeds in capturing both the unrealness of the moment and the mysticism of the reality. It is also worth noting that there is a certain stiffness in the art that is unsettling for the reader yet perfect for the narrative. As absurd as it may sound, the story feels both like a long road trip but also a long campfire story. Not too surprising when it comes to Neil Gaiman, right?

American Gods: My Ainsel is a stellar adaptation—with suitable artwork to go hand in hand with the plot—of an ambitious trilogy that covers the recruitment of Gods for an impending war.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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Already at its second season, the live-action TV series adaptation of the novel continues to impress fans. Have you seen it? Do you plan to?

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19 comments

  • “As absurd as it may sound, the story feels both like a long road trip but also a long campfire story” Well, that just made me very interested indeed. Of course I have heard about both the books and the tv series for this, but I have never looked at either. I think before diving into the graphic novels, I would probably first read the book. I have never read anything by Gaiman, so might as well get started with it at some point! Great review Lashaan! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • You definitely need to give his books a shot! Or check out some of the movies/shows based on his books. His mind is amazing, although it can sometimes be quite heavy for some readers hahha Thanks for reading, my good friend! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  • Some intriguing thoughts my friend, eloquently presented as always and good to hear that the comic adaptations are living up to the novel. Interesting that the comic improves on the flaws of the source material and I can see how good use of the art, the visual storytelling, can tighten up the pace of a certain section of the novel.

    I definitely need to dive into some of Gaiman’s work, with the Sandman Netflix series on the way that might seem like a good place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re too kind, my friend! Nothing beats your own eloquence though. And yes, I feel like the graphic novel adaptation works for the better, even if the book is great for its own reasons. I too can’t wait to see what the Sandman Netflix series will be like. That’s one project that needs to see the light. I was pretty sad when they cancelled the movie project with Joseph Gordon Levitt. 😔

      Liked by 1 person

  • I want it! American Gods is my favourite Gaiman’s novel, and this might be better than another re-read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m not surprised to see such a glowing review of Neil Gaiman’s work! I have only read about two works of him but am already a huge fan and can’t find a single fault in the man’s writing. I did start American Gods a while ago but have to say the violence and gore were a bit jarring for me. I didn’t stop because of it but it did make me a little less inclined to continue. I might try again some time but for now will probably focus on his books.
    Amazing review, Lashaan! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • He has quite the imagination and his understanding of the unreal is outstanding! I love seeing what he comes up with and so far he’s always been interesting in one way or another. I do hope you’ll get the chance to try his American Gods novel again if not his comics, Sophie. Thank you so much for reading! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • I’ve actually read American Gods. I did so at a friend’s behest and remember thinking it was surreal and sooooo long. hahaha I’ve also read one or two of his Sandman graphic novel before I really got into them more. I’ve always thought that he deserved the praise he receives even if it isn’t quite my thing. It sounds like the graphic novel of American Gods deserves a second look at the story. I was really hoping to see the graphics but I don’t know if its my end or yours but they didn’t show up. >.<

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh I see what you mean by the art!! I feel like Gaiman’s stories are really suited to this kind of realistic style. (You called it stiff… I get that for some reason it seems to mimic real life somewhat? Even though its clearly art…) 😉 I guess submitting the comment got it to come it. I’ll remember that for next time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m assuming that you were finally able to see the art in my slideshow (maybe it just needed a refresh too or something hahah)! And yes, that’s true. It does aim for something realistic but even then, it has this style that feels like it was a photo rather than conveying something in motion.

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    • It was indeed super long! And the most “boring part” was the one that was essentially covered in this 2nd volume of his comic book adaptation. I do think it translates better as a comic book but the writing style in the novel is still worth checking out. That’s odd, not being able to see the pictures. It should work fine! 😮

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