P. Craig Russell starts shaping the identity of Mike Ainsel in this issue. Shadow fully immerses himself in his new role, creating a story for Ainsel. Shadow as Ainsel settles down briefly—he establishes himself at a place to live and buys a car. He meets the locals who readily befriend him. The townspeople are warm and welcoming, offering good food and free rides. The tension and anxiety from previous issues has disappeared (temporarily, at least), and Shadow seems like he may actually have a moment to relax.
Despite the friendliness of the townspeople, this issue still carries a sense of loneliness and isolation. We know that Shadow is just passing through and that there are big things awaiting him ahead on his journey. I am sure that Wednesday’s absence won’t be for long and that he will need Shadow’s assistance once again. Plus, there are others who are looking for Shadow, so he will need to keep on the move.
The big reminder of the American epic myth is the bitter cold and brutal winds that Shadow seems to have brought to the town with him. There’s also a brief display of Shadow’s dreams that begin in complete darkness and end at some sort of ritual with glowing fires. The contrast between the dream sequences shows the bleakness and mystery of both darkness and light. Shadow’s dreams aren’t really nightmares, but they are heavy and disturbing.
Scott Hampton’s art captures the bleakness of the setting and the dreary tone of the whole series. The bare trees look endlessly entwined, and the sky appears like a dark shroud. I actually feel cold just reading the issue—and it’s not shivers of fear but of uncertainty, distress, and discomfort about this version of America. This is an America that never sees sunlight, because the sky is perpetually overcast, an atmosphere confined to what the gods demand. I also think that Shadow is ignorant to his own relationship with the climate; he’s such a go-with-the-flow kind of guy that he just rolls with it. He even wanders alone into the cold, becoming one with the atmosphere until human intervention rescues him.
While this issue doesn’t have the same magic and mythological creatures of previous issues, it is still dark and cold. It puts the myth in real-world America, where dark forces can sweep through a small town. All of America, beware: There’s something brewing, and it’s sure to hit hard.
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman (writer), P. Craig Russell (writer) P. Craig Russell (artist), Glenn Fabry (cover artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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