Thursday, July 09, 2009
I'm familiar with Butcher's Dresden Files, but I've never read any of the books. Reading the graphic novel, thus, became my first Dresden experience, and it's a bit of a mixed bag. Welcome to the Jungle follows none other than the infamous Harry Dresden, sorcerer extraordinaire turned mystical detective, as he takes on yet another case: a brutal murder at the Chicago zoo with too many unanswered questions for the poor Chicago PD to handle; that's why they've called Dresden, because his specialty is with the supernatural. As Dresden investigates, he starts to learn that there's far more to this case than meets the eye, beyond the typical otherworldly things. The more he digs, the more he comes to realize that he's dealing with forces greater than his own, forces that could kill him if he's not too careful. Welcome to the Jungle is a fairly stand-alone tale. One doesn't need to have read any of the Dresden books to get a clear picture of who Harry Dresden is or what he does. This might mean that fans of the novels may find this graphic novel a tad redundant, but I understand the reason for trying to make this graphically visualized addition to a popular series separate from the books--it is touching on a new market, and leaving them high and dry would be comparable to career suicide. That said, there is much to be admired about Welcome to the Jungle. The artwork is fairly standard as far as American comics are concerned, with a glossy, bright coloration and American-style structuring of characters. I'm not a big fan of American-style comic art, but it seems to work particularly well for Dresden. He has that ruggedness that American comics tend to demonstrate both in character and build. My only criticism of the artwork, and with the characterization, is the stereotyping of women in this piece, something I would have thought had gone out of style years ago. The story is nothing to get excited about, but I suppose that Welcome to the Jungle is less about the complexity of plot and character development, and more about the injection of noir elements to produce a grungy, updated fantastic detective story. It seems to work, though a deeper plot could have helped pull things out from the "shock-and-awe" jumps that existed in the plot. My biggest issue with Welcome to the Jungle (which, by the way, is the name of a song by an rather popular 80s rock band) is the way the dialogue is structured. Much of the story is told through Dresden's internal thoughts, which might not be a problem except where his thoughts point out the glaringly obvious. In novel form, these sorts of thoughts would certainly work well to establish Dresden's voice, but here it is irritating. We can see most of the detail in the image; telling us about such things in Dresden's mind is redundant. Overall, I think current fans of the novels would enjoy Welcome to the Jungle. While it is far from perfect, it doesn't lack in interesting elements, and would have much to offer people who are already familiar with Butcher's fiction. New readers might not enjoy it nearly as much, but I suppose that depends on your tastes in graphic novels/comics. As it is, Welcome to the Jungle is an entertaining read.