Thursday, July 09, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: Welcome to the Jungle (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher and Ardian Syaf

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.

10 comments:

SQT said...

Thanks for the review. I had been wondering what this one was like.

Jocelyn said...

This is a really good review; the writers manage to be analytical despite lacking passion for the subject, and I totally respect that. Everyone seems to think they can only write well if they're crazy-jazzed for something, but the hardest and best writing comes from looking realistically at strengths and weaknesses.

That said, yea, I won't be reading that book. Mostly 'cause I just don't like graphic novels or sci fi or murder tales. I'm too cranky.

Jocelyn said...

I mean "writer."

SQT said...

Jocelyn

Too cranky to read sci-fi or murder tales? What do cranky people read? ;)

christina said...

I really enjoyed your review. I had thought about buying this book, but then didn't. I may get it now, but still am not sure. Thanks for telling me about it!--Christina http://www.angelfire.com/oh3/christinakiplinger
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Zek J Evets said...

the comic (calling it "graphic novel" is a personal pet peeve, but we'll save it for another day) is great if you're already a fan of the series, and wanted something more concrete to look at, as part of immersing yourself in the world of the dresden files, but as far as comics go, it's pretty redundant to what's already out there.

jim butcher shouldn't be trying to make his way into a market that won't fit his work. he's a novelist who writes novels. next time he needs to get someone else who's willing to make adaptations, because like you said, the style in a book doesn't always translate well for a comic.

still, i bought it, enjoyed it, and will probably get the next, because i'm a sleazy fanboy like that.

The Pea Picker said...

It's interesting that you noticed something about the women being stereotyped. I read the first novel and was really put off by the women. Bad. I also didnt like all the inner-thinking of Dresden. His thoughts would go on for pages and go over and over the same ground - ground that was already obvious. That part didn't even work for me in a novel.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've got the first couple of the regular books and definitely want to read those first. I don't know why, but the impulse to pick one up hasn't hit me yet.

Sharon E. Dreyer said...

Great review. While I haven't read the Dresden novels, I did watch every episode of the cable series from a while back. Does the series follow the books? Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

S.M.D. said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts about my review everyone. I appreciate it. Did a lot of thinking on this one :P.