Review: Dresden Files (Graphic Novels)
When I heard back in 2008 or so that my favorite book series, The Dresden Files, was also going to be published in comic format, I fangirled all over the place. I picked up Storm Front halfway through my junior year of high school, caught up in a year, and then potty-danced everywhere waiting for the next book in the series.
I actually missed the date that the first issue of the first new story, “Welcome to the Jungle”, was released, and actually walked into the comic store shortly after the realease of the second issue. The fantastic Pete Kilmer (I think that’s his name), though, of Downtown Comics in Castleton, IN, told me that while they were sold out of the first issue, someone had reserved a copy, had never come to pick it up, and was unreachable, so he would just go ahead and sell it to me.
I almost peed myself in excitement right there in his store. Which would have been humiliating, because I’m pretty sure I spent the majority of that summer chilling in that store, when my job wasn’t killing me.
There were a few different covers of issue one of “Welcome to the Jungle.” This one is my favorite:
That art’s by Chris McGrath, who does the art for the novels. In general, pretty fantastic. I would have been more than happy if the entire comic had been illustrated like that – maturely, and well. However, when the individual issues of the comic were published, the covers looked closer to this:
That’s one of the covers, although not the one that I ended up with. Still very well done. While this is not the cover of the first issue of “Welcome to the Jungle”, the art style on the cover I have is pretty much in the exact style seen here:
This is still very well done. While still a lot more cartoony than McGrath’s interpretation, and a bit more cartoony than what fits with my own personal tastes, it’s still an art style that I can see working. The way Harry’s drawn – chiefly, his face – does not exactly fit with what I’ve always seen in my head while reading the books, but it’s still closer than Paul Blackthorne, who played Harry in the one-season-wonder of the sci-fi television show.*
The front cover of the comic, however, is probably the highlight of the comic.
Here’s a look at the character sketches of our main characters:
There’s a lot of copy-paste going on in the art, and everyone looks like a grouchy, pouty-faced cartoon character. I hate it when my comic book characters look like cartoons. Lieutenant Murphy ooks like… well, a man – what happened to the small, cute, cheereleader-looking gal we’re all expecting? Why does Harry Dresden look so stereotypically heroic? Why is one of the main characters a gorilla? Why does he have the same expression on his face as Lt. Murphy?
The story in “Welcome to the Jungle” isn’t bad, per se, but it doesn’t feel like Dresden Files. It feels like Butcher was trying to write a Saturday morning cartoon that would appear somewhere between Spiderman and The Adventures of Jackie Chan. It feels childish and, honestly, is not nearly as engaging as any of the actual novels, or many graphic novels that I’ve read. I’ve read short stories by Butcher before, mostly just in the Side Jobs book, but even the first Dresden story he wrote, “Faith”, is loads better than “Welcome to the Jungle.”
As far as the art style goes, I thought it was lazy. I’d seen problems in the Anita Blake series, published under the same label, but I thought maybe Butcher would have had the foresight to make sure those same problems didn’t happen. Clearly it didn’t. I mean, just look how disappointing this is, considering how rich and vibrant the Dresden-verse really is:
A lot of people will likely disagree with me, but honestly, between the art and the story (and that’s a big deal for me to say, because I absolutely love Jim Butcher), “Welcome to the Jungle” was a disappointment. I’ve seen him do better, and this is just… this is a children’s book, with a few adult themes.
So far they’ve finished running Storm Front and are partway, if not all of the way, through Fool Moon by now, but honestly, the only reason I would conitnue buying the comics is if I loved the art, and obviously I don’t. I’m not even sure if I would actually publish the new stories that are put together, outside of the stories we’ve already experienced in the novels. Everything would have to improve drasitically. Butcher deserves better than what he got out of the Dabel Brothers** label and Ardian Syaf.
* I will say this – while I did actually like the tv show, it was not the same Dresden Files that I’d been in love with for so long. Given more time, it probably could have flourished into something better, but if we’re going to do something on film then they need to be full-length movies, based on the books, with budgets and that sort of thing.
** After some research, I’m not much more impressed with Dabel Brothers than I was five minutes ago. I remember, when buying Welcome to the Jungle, Pete telling me that Dabel Brothers’ contract with Marvel had been terminated because they had an issue with doing things on time. In fact, this seems to be a trend with them: they’ve been taken to court or had their clients’ terminate contracts because they can’t seem to stay on the ball. Jim, get out while you can.