A Journey Into Mystery

Title: Norse Mythology (2017)   
Author: Neil Gaiman   
Publisher: W.W. Norton   

Book jacket: Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon, fashioning these primeval stories into a novelistic arc.

Joe says: The retelling of ancient myths is a light fun read, but Gaiman's artistic rendering gets lost in translation.
Odin in the Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Odin, “Seasons of Mist” (Sandman #26)

When Neil Gaiman included Odin, Thor, and Loki into the “Seasons of Mist” storyline for his seminal Sandman series, he scripted characters that were worlds different then their archetypes present over in Marvel Comics. Even though Walter Simonson introduced truer Norse myths into the Thor comic during his incredible ’80s run on the Marvel series, Gaiman’s characters were wilder, grittier, and mayhap, more believable.

Fast forward nearly thirty years later and Gaiman re-visits those Norse characters, speaking epics and whispering myths as they would have been recited centuries ago. Norse Mythology was hyped as a rendition of those great northern tales with Gaiman’s unique, fan-pleasing style.

Although not really.

Gaiman’s artistic rendering gets lost in translation. Some of these epic tales are fun. Some are amusing. And others? As vague as the number of Odin’s children.

Odin, Loki, Thor by Walt Simonson for Marvel Comics
Odin, Loki, Thor by Walt Simonson

Norse Mythology has Neil Gaiman presenting fifteen Norse myths, many of which are indeed new and exciting, especially for those fans who automatically equate the Golden Realm of the Gods with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. The book is light read and mixes tales of heroism and tragedy with honor, naivety, and humor, but all told in a straight, matter-of-fact way that is almost more of a YA style in language, and most unlike Gaiman’s past works. Granted, Gaiman does have the stories build upon each other in a close-to-narrative continuity, but they are all quick, working superficially when many of these stories cry out for that deep, archaeological dig that is simply not present here.

There is no insight to the metaphor present in the telling. No relational value in comparing these myths to Babylonian or Judeo-Christian creation stories. No transforming heroic plight for the gods, save for the end that is a beginning as told during Ragnarok. Verily, Gaiman does unearth these ancient tales in a fresh and entertaining way, making the book an enjoyable one, but he doesn’t quite capture the lightning one would expect with the majestic Mjolnir gracing the book’s cover.

Norse Mythology book review by Joe Kucharski
“Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman

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