Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
Great intro to the world of the northern gods
on November 14, 2007
When I first heard about Erik Evensen's graphic novel, Gods of Asgard, I was truly excited. Modern interpretations of mythology are something of a pet hobby of mine, and the previews of the artwork for this retelling of some of the major myths of the Norse gods was promising. After a brief hunt through the local comic store (which had all sold out), I bit the bullet and ordered it through Amazon. And, as with all mail order books, I anxiously checked the mail each day waiting for it to arrive.
The artwork is indeed gorgeous. Evensen has a great talent for making recognizable characters and for conveying a wide range of emotions. He notes some interesting details, such as giving Loki an increasingly scarred visage as the story progresses, starting out with his mouth being sewn shut by Brokk and becoming quite mangled by Ragnarok from the serpent's venom dripping on his face. Also, Evensen's depictions of the Jotuns are quite fun, and reflect their individual characters nicely. A particular favorite of mine was Thiazi, who was given eagle talons for legs to echo his other form. Lastly, Evensen's inking is visually stunning and clear, allowing for very easy appreciation of his underlying pencils (guest inker Ken McFarlane also does an excellent job on the sixth, seventh, and ninth tales).
Unfortunately, Evensen's mastery of language does not match his graphic ability. The stories do not make a unified whole and the narrative is quite choppy. The story suffers from a severe case of telling the reader what is going on rather than allowing him to discover it for himself. The first twenty pages are narrated through text boxes (as is the final tale of Ragnarok), and actually, in combination with the artwork, create a relatively effective story-telling device. But Evensen suddenly changes his style with the third tale (the building of the walls of Asgard), which is unfortunate as the dialogue is less than scintillating. It lacks the poetic archaisms which would have made it charming and instead the remaining tales come off as stilted and trite. Perhaps my expectations were to high, having been spoiled by the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths as a child, where the union of word and picture is seamless. Considering just how satisfying Evensen's art is, it makes the disappointment of his prose all the more acute.
However, the book is not without its merits. It makes a fine introduction to the gods of the north for those who have never encountered them before. For those who have, though, there are some sections that have been edited for modern sensibilities (for example, Modi and Magni's mother is never mentions, allowing Thor to appear engaged in a monogamous marriage; not depicting Loki's antics with the goat in his attempt to make Skadi laugh), as well as some areas that stray from the myths (Frey using a sword instead of an antler in his final battle with Surt. To his credit, he acknowledges some of his changes in the introduction and notes, and does provide a list of primary and secondary sources for those who would seek further.
In short, if you have a teenager who is just becoming interested in mythology, this is a fantastic book. The main players are clearly introduced and the chronology of the tales is plain to follow. There are some quite violent scenes, as well as some implied nudity and sexuality, so I would leave it to the parents' discretion as to whether they find it appropriate for their young ones. For older folk who just enjoy a fun reading, and who aren't too critical of differences from the Eddas, I would also say dig in. It isn't often that a semi-scholarly approach to a graphic novel is taken, and for that Evensen is to be commended.