My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure it at your own risk. When things get strange, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I'm in the book.
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden is a Wizard living and working in modern day Chicago. He has starred in 14 novels (Book 15, Skin Game, is due out in December 2013) and several short stories appearing in various anthologies and collections. Thanks to Dynamite Comics, Harry is also the star of a series of graphic novels, three of which I'm going to talk about today.
The idea of adapting novels into comics has been around for a little while now, and quite frankly, it’s the source of my column here at the Kirkus blog network most weeks. Not everyone approaches adaptation in the same way. Butcher launched his adaptations with a brand new story written specifically for the comics: Welcome to the Jungle, takes place immediately before the first Dresden Files novel, Storm Front. More on that in a minute.
Welcome to the Jungle sets up the Dresden Files universe. Karrin Murphy is the head of Chicago PD's Special Investigation Unit. Ron Carmichael is her partner. Whenever anything weird comes up, they call in one Harry Dresden, Wizard. On this particular day, a mysterious death at the zoo is weird enough to make that call. Harry arrives and doesn't believe the suspect, a gorilla, did it, and begins his investigation. He meets the various people who work at the zoo and starts to form some theories as to what kind of supernatural big bad might be behind it all. When animals start attacking, obviously controlled by magic, Harry quickly finds himself in the thick of it and scrambles in his usual style to figure it all out and save his friends. As the story progresses, we’re introduced to Mister the cat; Bob; The Blue Beetle; and Harry's patented sense of humor.
Next in the series is a full adaptation, in two volumes, of Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files. Storm Front Vol 1: The Gathering Storm roughly details the first half of Storm Front. Harry is called in by Karrin Murphy to investigate the death of a man and a woman found with their chests exploded, hearts gone. He immediately suspects magic is involved. On his way out, he's grabbed by John Marcone, gentleman gangster, whose bodyguard is the dead man. Marcone wants Dresden to stay out of it and let him handle whoever killed his bodyguard himself. Harry refuses. Back at his office, he runs into a woman who wants to hire him to look into the disappearance of her husband, missing three days now. Needing the money, he takes the job. Needing a drink, he heads to Mac's bar, McNallys, where he runs into Susan Rodriguez, reporter for The Chicago Arcane, a paper covering the supernatural and paranormal goings on in Chicago, and they arrange a date for later. Back on the job, Harry summons Toot the faerie to find out some information and is attacked by Morgan, Warden of the White Council, who believes Harry is behind the deaths and intends to prove it. This leads Harry to contact Lady Bianca, a vampire with the Red Court. The encounter doesn't go well. Nor does it get any better when Susan shows up for their date and Harry is attacked by a demon.
Storm Front Vol 2: Maelstrom begins in the aftermath of the demon attack. Harry is brought to another murder scene with the same M.O. Harry suspects they are somehow using storms by tapping into the elemental energy to do their dirty work. Whoever “they” are. Worse, the victim is someone that Harry spoke with, and who has Harry’s business card on his person, drawing suspicion onto him. Murphy considers him a suspect now. Outside the crime scene, Harry is attacked and a lock of his hair is taken. Knowing it can be used against him, Harry chases down the man using a tracking spell and finds him in the company of Marcone, who claims no knowledge of the attack. The lock of hair is nowhere to be found. Murphy is attacked in Harry's office by a giant scorpion construct, forcing Harry to fight or watch his friend die. Angry now, Harry tracks the magic doing all the damage to its source and confronts it head on.
A few interesting facts: First, these graphic novels are presented in hardcover, high-gloss paper, and include all the original comic covers, sketches and an additional comics adaptation of the short story “Restoration” (in Vol 1), making for three gorgeous collections. Second, they also include introductions from Butcher wherein he confesses that when he is writing the Dresden books, he sees comic panels in his head (a great insight into how he writes). Third, the designs of the characters are as close to what he sees in his head as possible, and Harry, he says, is “bang-on.” Fourth, they capture the novels ridiculously well.
I admit to being a huge fan of the Dresden novels, and the graphic novels bring them to life in a way the television show never managed, mostly since a comic doesn't really have budgetary constraints. The art (done by Adrian Syaf and Brett Booth) is strong and consistent, translating the mood of the books onto the page. The characters and scenes pop and flow, the story is tight and expertly adapted by Mark Powers. If you've never read the Dresden File books, the graphic novels are a great way to jump in, especially if you prefer a visual medium.
The adaptation of Book 2, Fool Moon, is already out and I'll be picking it up shortly.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and Hugo-nominated Podcast producer/host and editor who 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 and a 2013 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.