Date Read: 6.3.09
Book From: Library
A prequel to the first Dresden Files novel, “Welcome to the Jungle” is the first graphic novel addition to the series – a full adaptation of the first novel (Storm Front) is to come, apparently. The four-issue comic’s plot is boilerplate Dresden Files: a gruesome murder, this time at the zoo, has Lt. Karrin Murphy of Chicago PD’s Special Investigations calling in Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard in the phonebook. Harry has 24 hours to uncover the killer, and, of course, has no idea where to start. In the meantime, the murder has been pinned on one of the zoo’s prized (and innocent) gorillas, lending extra urgency to Harry’s search for the real culprit.
Unsurprisingly, the Dresden Files, with their spectacular action scenes, car chases, and colorful magical rituals, translate perfectly to comic-book form, with quick panels here capably taking the place of the lengthy descriptions required in the book. Indeed, Butcher explains in his introduction that his storytelling is strongly influenced by the multitude of comics that he read when young (something that I definitely sympathize with).
For the most part, I really enjoyed artist Ardian Syaf’s work: he has dynamic paneling and slick coloring that perfectly captures the Dresden Files’ noirish ambiance. Crucially, he also renders action scenes well, leading to some spectacular doses of slavering beasties, crashing masonry, and explosions galore. There are some enjoyably subtle touches thrown in, too, like a potion label sloppily applied with bits of Scotch tape in Harry’s lab.My only quibbles were that Harry, though saved from the realm of lantern-jawed superherodom by a generous helping of stubble and eye-rolling, seemed too buff for my tastes – I’d like more gangling with my wizard, please. Likewise, an improbably flowing-tressed Murphy seems a bit out of line with the books’ button-nosed, pony-tailed Murph. Otherwise, many of the creatures and scenes in the comic could have been pulled directly from my imaginings of the novel, which is all that a fan can ask for. I especially liked the scene in which Harry walks the crime scene while imagining potential paranormal culprits, which gives the reader a great visual overview of the series’ bestiary.
A few sprinkled flashbacks also fill the reader in on Harry’s childhood, making this as good an entrypoint as any into the series for any unfamiliar readers (and arguably much more newbie-friendly than the increasingly complicated later books in the series). Overall, this is classic Dresden Files, with Harry brawling, detecting, and quipping his way to the final showdown in wizardly style. By turns irreverent and gruesome, snarky and slightly cheesily heartfelt, it’s what I like to call brain candy: consummate entertainment paired with a modicum of emotional and intellectual content. “Welcome to the Jungle” is a decent addition to the collection of a Dresden fan, and a good taste of the series for those curious about starting it, though it lacks the stronger emotional draw and character development of the novels.
The hardcover edition also has a number of fun goodies tucked in the end – the original issues’ covers, Syaf’s concept sketches for the characters and creatures, along with Butcher’s notes, and some previews of iconic scenes from the upcoming Storm Front adaptation.