NORSE MYTHOLOGY #1/ Story and Words by NEIL GAIMAN/ Script and Layouts by P. CRAIG RUSSELL/ Letters by GALEN SHOWMAN/ Art by P. CRAIG RUSSELL, MIKE MIGNOLA & JERRY ORDWAY/ Colors by LOVERN KINDZIERSKI & DAVE STEWART/ Cover by P. CRAIG RUSSELL & LOVERN KINDZIERSKI/ Variant Cover by DAVID MACK/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Most of what Americans know about Norse mythology comes from comic books and the Thor films. Even I, who was a bit of a mythology geek as a boy, read more about the legends of Ancient Greece and Rome than I did of the myths of the Vikings. This is largely because the oral tradition was much stronger among the skalds of the North than it was among the Greeks and Romans and most of the written accounts of their stories were made by Christian monks.
This imbalance led Neil Gaiman to write a collection of Norse myths in his own words a few years ago. To the surprise of no one, it was a great collection lauded by scholars and students of Norse culture. Now we have a graphic novel adaptation of Norse Mythology, overseen by frequent Gaiman collaborator P. Craig Russell. It too is a worthy effort, as grand as the gifts made for Odin, Thor and Frey by the sons of Invaldi. (Don’t worry if you don’t get that reference. It will make sense after you read this book.)
This first issue features two complete stories and the first part of a third. The first, Yggdrasil And The Nine Worlds, details the cosmology of Norse mythology and the nine realms contained in the world tree. Russell illustrates this one with his usual keen eye for detail, which will be well familiar to those who know his work on Sandman. A darker tale is told in Mimir’s Head and Odin’s Eye and is appropriately illustrated by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. The color art for both stories perfectly partners with the tales, as Lovern Kindzierski wields a variety of palettes in depicting everything from Asgard to Hel and back. Dave Stewart goes darker in his coloring of the story of how Odin lost an eye to gain the wisdom of a magic well.
The third story, The Treasures of The Gods, was perhaps my favorite, simply because it is a funny story told well, as Loki finds himself desperately trying to restore the hair of Sif (he shaved her head because he was drunk and bored) and goes about it with a convoluted contest between two teams of dwarves. Jerry Ordway illustrates this tale as if it were a twisted Prince Valiant comic. I love his design for Loki, who bears a strong resemblance to Christopher Eccleston. (Who, now that I think on it, was a bit of Loki in his portrayal of The Doctor on Doctor Who. But I digress.) The colors by Lovern Kindzierski are fantastic here as well. And the letters by Galen Showman are splendid throughout.
If all you know of Norse Mythology came from a certain other Marvelous comic company, you are in for a treat reading this volume. If you are a Gaiman fan curious how the master’s words are adapted into a comic form, rest assured this all-star team of artisans does not play fast and loose with their craft. This is a great comic and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.