As always, the art in this issue works so well with the writing. David Mack’s use of red on his cover is absolutely stunning. His watercolor effect creates beauty in a series filled with intense darkness. There is confusion in the simplicity of the cover. It is a nice contrast to Glenn Fabry and Adam Brown’s cover, where the details are so clear that we can count the wrinkles in Shadow’s jeans. Together, the covers show one realistic illustration and one mystical illustration: the perfect pairing to parallel the events that occur in this series.
The issue starts by taking us to another land. Scott Hampton’s colors are brilliant, bleeding into one another and creating an eye-catching celestial effect. I love the layout of these first few pages. The reading experience literally has us turning our heads in all different directions. The sharp angles make the panels look like deliberate shapes pieced together to tell the story. It’s choppy but effective in creating a herky-jerky ride to some other world that we don’t really know or understand. These pages remind me of The Sandman, so kudos to P. Craig Russell and Hampton for tapping into Neil Gaiman’s comic book genius. The Odin moment is also powerful. He appears as if he is rising out of the ground in an explosive burst of flame-like brilliance.
I love the storytelling in this issue. The monochromatic story about the tiger and the man provides some great comic relief to the intensity of Shadow’s tale. The story teaches a lesson, too, like all myths do. It reminds us that we can learn from stories, but it is not yet clear what we are to learn from the gods and Shadow in the larger tale.
The issue also moves seamlessly between the mystical world and the real world. We know that we are traveling through these places, but the pace and the artistry allow them to slightly overlap and intrude on one another. This makes an effect where reality and fantasy are always a part of the other. While we think we can distinguish them, they depend on each other, and the series relies on the overlap to keep gods as essential to reality. Russell creates a great balance in his portrayal of Gaiman’s plot. Laura’s intervention toward the end is a great moment where the dark fantastic pokes its head into reality.
This series continues to take us on a dark, twisted journey with many questionable characters popping in along the way. It perfectly releases mystical energy while still being mysterious and frightening—a perfect representation of dark mythology.