The action in this issue moves across various settings as Shadow and Wednesday continue their journey. With their adventures so far, this tale is playing out to be a perfectly dark mythological epic set in modern-day America. Shadow’s dream sequence adds to that feel, as the statues resemble mythological beasts. They are drawn to perfection to catapult us into a strange world that keeps intruding on the real world. Despite his name, Shadow is the light of these dark dreams. He is the heroic figure wrapped up in a complicated mess. Has he embarked on a hero’s journey? It is hard to tell without yet knowing what his quest is for. The mysterious purpose of his travels creates Gothic uncertainty and apprehension that is utterly engaging.
And then we get a creepy ghost who looks and sounds human but, as Shadow tells us, is cold to the touch. Laura’s presence is strange and perplexing. She doesn’t seem trapped on Earth with unfinished business; instead, she claims that she is going to help Shadow. Shadow tries to distance himself from her by leaving town with Wednesday, but clearly this solid-bodied Laura ghost is going to come into play again, probably to protect Shadow from whomever or whatever Wednesday has coming after him.
With a wonderful addition by Walter Simonson and Laura Martin, this issue contains historical flashback to explorers arriving in America in 813 A.D. The color palette for these panels are more muted than the present day, creating an atmosphere that truly evokes a former time. The story beautifully interweaves greed, manipulation, and murder with retribution and the will of the gods. It marks America as inhabited by the gods long before the westerners settled on the land. It seems as though the gods are truly in charge, and the humans are their pawns. I can see the relevance of this story on the modern-day journey. The gods are still ever-present and powerful forces. Their agenda is mysterious, and it is not clear as to exactly what their relationship is with humans. But Mr. Wednesday will hopefully shed some light on this as their travels continue.
The final stop in this issue is Chicago, where we meet some new characters. Tensions are apparent between Mr. Czernobog and Mr. Wednesday, so Shadow is responsible for being the mediator or problem solver. Shadow certainly accepts Wednesday’s peccadillos without much question. I would want to know more about the tense history of these two men and why Mr. Czernobog calls Wednesday “Grimnir.” But Shadow just seems to go along with everything. I suppose he feels that it is his job to follow Mr. Wednesday and do his bidding without question. Perhaps Mr. Czernobog, then, can help us unravel more of the mystery of the plot.
I am blown away by David Mack’s variant cover for this issue. The levels of symbolism, the shapes, the words, and the overlapping of images create a brilliant configuration of multiple messages all wrapped up together. There is so much to find and think about on just this one cover. It is stunning and a perfect reflection of the blend of mystery and mythological symbolism that bleeds through the pages of the comic.
Issue #3 is my favorite so far. The weirdness of the ghost and new characters are intriguing, and the dream sequence and historical story add layers to the tale, making it live up to its ambitious task to be an epic.