Following the events of Dead Beat, Book 7 in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, War Cry gives us a story set in-between Book 7 and Book 8, Proven Guilty. Drafted by The White Council, Harry Dresden is now a Warden fighting the good fight against the Red Court Vampires, who declared war on the Council after Harry and Michael Carpenter’s actions to save the lives of Lydia, Susan and Justine in Book 3, Grave Peril, resulted in the death of Bianca, a Red Court uppity-up. Whew. That’s a lot of backstory to remember and digest. But wait—there’s more!
If you haven’t read those books, but you want to, you should understand there’s going to be a lot of spoilers in today’s post. I’m talking massive amounts of spoilers. So, you should go read those books now and come back here after—okay? Good?
Let’s move on.
Like Ghoul Goblin, and Welcome to the Jungle, War Cry is an original graphic novel written by Jim Butcher for Dynamite Comics. It’s illustrated by Carlos Gomez (Spectacular Spider-Man, Pathfinder) with a cover by Stjepan Sejic (Rat Queens, Ravine). By the time the events in Dead Beat happen, the war between the White Council and the Red Court is not going well—for the Council. The details of their (frankly) staggering losses are laid out in the first few pages of War Cry, leading them to draft Harry Dresden, rebel, outcast and all around troublemaker, who would much rather be relaxing in his hometown of Chicago than joining their ranks. Now in charge of a small group of young Wardens—Carlos Ramirez, Yoshimo and “Wild Bill” Meyers—Harry has to load them up the Blue Beetle and head to Iowa on a secret mission for the White Council. In fact, the mission is so secret Harry and the crew don’t even know what it is until they get there.
According to their magically encrypted orders, they’re in Iowa to evacuate a group of Venatori Umbrorum. The Venatori are a secret society of humans with no supernatural abilities who have allied themselves with the White Council against the Red Court. What they lack in magic, they more than make up for in power, knowledge and influence, all of which almost immediately triggers Dresden’s spidey-sense at the idea of them being holed up in a farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere Iowa.
As he and his band of Wardens arrive, the Red Court attacks and Dresden is trapped within a much larger Red Court force than he was led to believe would be there, and the secrets both the White Council and the Venatori are trying to keep in the heart of Iowa, secrets which could spell the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people.
To say I loved this book would be such an understatement. It’s a great, intensely fun, quick read that satisfied my Dresden Files itch in a year during which I’m not sure we’ll get a new novel in the series. If you put it together with the two books taking place before and after this one, it really helps bridge that space and get you into Harry’s head and emotional state between those books. Being a Warden isn’t something he ever saw himself doing, and wearing that mantle grates. He’s going to live up to his responsibilities—he is Harry Dresden, after all—but that doesn’t mean he has to like it. I think Thomas, his half-brother, sums it up well in the book when he says, “Harry is far from perfect. He can be a real pain in the ass and his sense of honor is so inflexible that it sometimes borders on pathological.”
By the time Proven Guilty starts, the Warden’s cloak is already weighing heavily on Harry’s shoulders, and some of that is fall out from the events of War Cry.
For me, these stand-alone Dresden comics are interesting because they’re written specifically for the comic medium. As such, they aren’t adaptations of existing materials, which makes them inherently lighter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the adaptations of the novels, but they are just that—adaptations. Sometimes adaptations can get bogged down by the parent text. Not so with Ghoul Goblin, Welcome to the Jungle, and War Cry, which draw from the larger universe without being confined by it.
That they work so well says a lot about Butcher as an author, who I think is getting more comfortable writing for the comic medium with each subsequent project.
Which begs the question—when will we see a Codex Alera adaptation, Mr. Butcher?…and if the answer is “After the next Dresden book comes out,” I’m okay with that. I can wait.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.